Northern Ireland

Ulster's Jackson and Olding face rape prosecution

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding
Image caption Both fly-half Paddy Jackson and centre Stuart Olding deny the allegations

Two Ulster rugby stars are among four men to be prosecuted for offences relating to allegations of rape, the BBC understands.

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were arrested in June 2016 with two other men, and questioned about allegations of a sexual assault in south Belfast.

The PPS confirmed a decision has been taken to prosecute four men in relation to allegations of rape.

Both Mr Jackson, 25, and Mr Olding, 24, deny the allegations.

The Public Prosecution Service said: "Following a careful review of all of the available evidence, in accordance with our Code for Prosecutors, it has been decided that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute four individuals."

Solicitors representing Mr Jackson and Mr Olding confirmed their clients are to be prosecuted for alleged rape.

Another man is to be charged with a sexual offence and a fourth man is to be charged with intent to pervert the course of justice.

Solicitor Joe Rice, representing Stuart Olding said: "I would like to point out that my client has fully co-operated with the investigation and is not on any bail conditions and is of previous good character.

"He should be allowed to uphold his right to the presumption of innocence and rejects any allegation of wrong-doing and is confident his name will be cleared through the courts."

In a similar statement, Paddy Jackson's solicitor Kevin Winters said: "He rejects the allegations completely and we're very disappointed at the PPS decision to prosecute on these particular facts."

"We say there is no basis for the decision to prosecute and we are confident that our client will be cleared of any charge."

The PPS statement added: "As the criminal proceedings against these individuals have commenced and each has a right to a fair trial, it is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice proceedings."

All four men are due to appear in court next month.

The Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby said the players have agreed that they be relieved of their duties and obligations until the conclusion of the legal process, to allow them time to address the matter fully.

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding have been involved in legal proceedings against the BBC in relation to the reporting of their arrests.