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Wednesday 19 December 2018

PSNI probes death threat against lawyer as players' futures reviewed

Paddy Jackson (left) and his solicitor Joe McVeigh outside Belfast Crown Court. Photo: PA
Paddy Jackson (left) and his solicitor Joe McVeigh outside Belfast Crown Court. Photo: PA
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

The PSNI is investigating a death threat made against Paddy Jackson's lawyer in the wake of his client's acquittal.

Rugby stars Mr Jackson and his fellow international Stuart Olding (25) were found not guilty of rape by a jury but are waiting to hear if they can resume their rugby careers with Ulster and Ireland.

It has now emerged that the PSNI is investigating a threat against solicitor Joe McVeigh, who represented Mr Jackson, which was received after the verdicts. It is understood that Mr McVeigh will continue to act for Mr Jackson.

Meanwhile, it emerged that at least two foreign rugby clubs - one from England and another French - have made approaches to Mr Jackson, while a third club has enquired about the services of both players following their acquittal.

Mr Olding and Mr Jackson remain suspended by both Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), which will carry out an internal review conducted by two senior IRFU officials and two representatives from Ulster Rugby.

A legal representative of the IRFU, who monitored proceedings at Belfast Crown Court, will also be present and their report will form part of the review.

A senior source in Irish rugby said: "Both men have been found not guilty in the eyes of the law. However, what still must be established is whether or not the players have brought the game and/or the union into disrepute." The IRFU must make an application to Belfast Crown Court if it intends to seek full transcripts of evidence, which includes details of texts and other electronic messages.

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding are both on contracts valued at between €100,000 and €300,000. Mr Olding is paid less than Mr Jackson. Both men's current contracts were signed only weeks before events at Mr Jackson's home on June 28, 2016, that led to the trial.

The fallout from the case - which ended with the acquittal on all charges of Mr Jackson, Mr Olding, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison - continued on Saturday as thousands of people attended rallies and marches on both sides of the Border.

Nearly 4,000 marched in Dublin, several hundred held a rally in Belfast and there were also gatherings in Cork and Galway.

Adding further pressure on the IRFU, an online petition, which already has 50,000 signatories, is demanding that the organisation review its contract with the players.

Immediately after the court verdict last Wednesday, Mr Olding said in a statement: "Although I committed no criminal offence on the evening of June 28, 2016, I regret deeply the events of that evening.

"It was never my intention to cause any upset to anyone on that night. I don't agree with her perception of events and I maintain that everything that happened that evening was consensual.

"The Stuart Olding that has been portrayed over the past nine weeks in this trial is not the real Stuart Olding.

"I'm fiercely proud to represent my province and my country. I have worked very hard to achieve those goals."

Mr Jackson's lawyers also stressed that his client had paid a heavy price "personally, professionally and financially" and wished to get back to rugby.

They have indicated that Mr Jackson intends to take a libel action against Labour Party senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin over a tweet following the verdict.

Yesterday, the senator tweeted: "The matter is now in the hands of my solicitors. I won't be making any further comment."

Irish Independent

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