Northern Ireland

Stuart Olding: One rape charge against Ulster rugby player dropped

Stuart Olding Image copyright Press Association
Image caption Stuart Olding, seen here at a previous hearing, denies rape

One of the rape charges against Ulster and Ireland rugby player Stuart Olding has been dropped.

The 24-year-old, from Ardenlee Street, Belfast, had faced two rape charges over an alleged incident in June 2016

He was accused, alongside fellow Ulster and Ireland player Paddy Jackson, of raping the same woman in south Belfast.

However, a pre-trial hearing heard the prosecution is not proceeding with one of the rape charges against Mr Olding due to additional forensic evidence.

Both men deny all of the charges against them.

Mr Olding attended the hearing in Belfast Crown Court on Friday as the rape charge was dropped.

On direction of the judge, a statement was released on behalf of the prosecution and his defence team.

Forensic evidence

It said: "The prosecution have today confirmed that they will no longer be proceeding with the charge of vaginal rape against Stuart Olding. No evidence will now be offered by the prosecution in respect of this charge and Mr Olding will be acquitted of this count of rape.

"The prosecution acknowledges that Mr Olding always denied the offence of vaginal rape and challenged the adequacy of the evidence against him in respect of this charge at two hearings during 2017 which the prosecution successfully opposed, on the basis of the forensic evidence that the prosecution had obtained at that time.

"The prosecution is not proceeding with this count as a result of additional forensic evidence now available. Had that evidence been available at an earlier stage, the vaginal rape charge would not have been brought against Mr Olding at any time.

"The prosecution is proceeding with the remaining count of oral rape against Mr Olding."

In October, Mr Olding and Mr Jackson, were both returned for trial on rape charges over the alleged incident in a house in south Belfast.

Image copyright PA/Press Eye
Image caption Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding will not play for Ulster or Ireland until the case ends

Mr Jackson, 25, from Belfast's Oakleigh Park, is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault.

Two other men have also been charged in connection with the case.

Blane McIlroy, 25, of Royal Lodge Road, Belfast is charged with one count of exposure.

Rory Harrison, 25, of Manse Road, Belfast is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Mr McIlroy and Mr Harrison also deny the charges against them.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and Ulster Rugby have said Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding will not play again until the court process concludes.

Their Crown Court trial is due to be held early next year.