Friday 20 July 2018

Rugby stars' rape trial jury told to 'keep an open mind'

Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at court. Photos: Clodagh Kilcoyne
Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at court. Photos: Clodagh Kilcoyne
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Jurors sworn in for the rape trial of Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been warned to "keep an open mind" during the hearing, which is expected to last for five weeks.

Mr Jackson (26), of Oakleigh Park, Belfast, and Mr Olding (24), from Ardenlee Street, Belfast, are each charged with one count of rape in relation to the same woman at a property in south Belfast on June 28, 2016.

Both men deny the charges.

Mr Jackson also denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Stuart Olding. Photos: Clodagh Kilcoyne
Stuart Olding. Photos: Clodagh Kilcoyne

Two other men are also facing charges regarding the same incident.

Blane McIlroy (26), from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, is accused of one count of exposure, while Rory Harrison (25), from Manse Road, Belfast, is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

All four have pleaded not guilty and are on bail.

Judge Patricia Smyth yesterday asked potential jurors who were season ticket holders, or who had ever worked for or volunteered with Ulster Rugby Club, to identify themselves.

She cautioned jurors to keep an open mind throughout the trial, adding: "Your views may well change as the evidence unfolds and that is perfectly normal."

She also warned them not to conduct any research into individuals or anything to do with the trial, saying: "It would be wrong and it would be in breach of your oath or affirmation if you do."

Mr Jackson, a fly-half, has been capped for Ireland 25 times while centre Mr Olding has represented Ireland four times.

They are also established stars for Ulster Rugby.

Initially, Judge Smyth introduced each of the four defendants to the group of potential jurors.

Asking Mr Jackson to stand, she said he was charged with offences of a sexual nature and described him as an international rugby player for Ireland and a professional rugby player for Ulster.

She described Mr Olding as someone who plays rugby professionally.

All four defendants, dressed in dark suits, sat beside each other in a dock at the centre of the room as the jury was empanelled.

Irish Independent

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