Northern Ireland

Rugby rape trial: Jackson and Olding not entitled to court costs

Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Both Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson were found not guilty in unanimous verdicts

A court has ruled that former Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding can not claim back their legal costs from their recent rape trial.

Mr Jackson's legal costs are estimated at about £450,000. He privately funded his defence during the nine-week trial.

Mr Olding received legal aid halfway through the trial. His legal costs are estimated at about £150,000.

Both men were unanimously found not guilty in March of raping the same woman at a house party in June 2016.

Proceedings over costs were held in front of Judge Patricia Smyth, who oversaw the trial.

On Friday, she ruled that the pair were not entitled to retrieve their costs.

At a previous hearing, the court was told Mr Jackson's father, Peter, had used his retirement fund to help finance his son's defence costs.

The trial lasted twice as long as expected, which meant the legal costs escalated.

The subsequent hearings about whether Mr Jackson and Mr Olding should have their costs refunded meant more expense.

At the end of August, the Public Prosecution Service said their costs to date were £159,002.

This included counsel costs and witness expenses.

Judge's dismissal

Judge Patricia Smyth compared the case to a "Rubik's cube".

"This was a highly complex police investigation and the prosecution was warranted, albeit the jury did not consider that the charges had been proved beyond reasonable doubt," she said.

"The evidence bore the characteristics of a Rubik's cube, capable of bearing myriad conclusions, depending on the jury's view of the evidence.

"But those were conclusions for the jury to reach, not for the prosecution."

It took more than an hour for the Judge to read out her judgement

She concluded: "Having considered all of the relevant factors, I am satisfied that there is no basis for exercising my discretion in the applicants favour.

"The applications are therefore dismissed."

Not guilty verdict

Two other men were also charged in connection with the case.

Blane McIlroy, 26, of Royal Lodge Road, Belfast, was acquitted of one count of exposure.

Rory Harrison, 25, of Manse Road, Belfast, was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Mr Jackson did not attend Friday's hearing but members of his family were in court.

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding are both now playing in France after their Ulster contracts were revoked.