Monday 10 December 2018

Irish rugby stars' civil case against BBC put back to 2018

Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding arriving at Belfast's Laganside courts.
Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding arriving at Belfast's Laganside courts.

Alan Erwin

A privacy lawsuit brought by two Irish rugby stars facing rape charges has been put back to next year, it has been confirmed.

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding's civil action against the BBC was expected to get underway at the High Court in Belfast next month.

But a judge has now put the hearing on hold for at least six months to ensure criminal proceedings are completed first.

Mrs Justice Keegan said: "I will review it in February... with a view to listing the case at some time in May subject to the criminal trial."

The two players are accused of sexual offences against the same woman at a house in south Belfast in June last year.

Jackson, 25, of Oakleigh Park in the city, is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault.

Olding, 24, from Ardenlee Street, Belfast, is charged with two counts of rape.

Both men strenuously deny all allegations made against them.

Fly half Jackson has been capped for Ireland 25 times while centre Olding has played four times.

But the stars, also team mates for Ulster Rugby, are not being considered for selection until the criminal case is dealt with.

Two other 25-year-old men face charges as part of the same investigation into the alleged incident.

Blane McIlroy, from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, faces one count of exposure, while Rory Harrison, of Manse Road in the city, is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information. They also deny those allegations.

Earlier this month all four accused were returned for trial at Belfast Crown Court.

The criminal proceedings are expected to get underway early next year.

Meanwhile, Jackson and Olding are continuing with litigation against the BBC over the initial coverage of their questioning by police.

Writs seeking damages for misuse of private information were issued after details were published online at the start of November last year - months before charges with brought.

Their legal teams contend they weren't given sufficient notice for a right of reply before the story appeared.

They claim it was a private matter and raise issues about how the information was obtained.

In court today counsel for the BBC urged the judge to fix a new date for the civil action.

Athough Mrs Justice Keegan decided against a definitive listing, she agreed to the provisional start in six months time.

She added: "I'm not going to give you exact dates, but I will find a space if it's necessary."

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