Jackson and Olding remain suspended pending review

Belfast Crown

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding remain suspended from playing until their club, Ulster Rugby, and the Irish Rugby Football Union finish a joint review of the case.

The jury took three hours and 45 minutes to acquit all the men of any wrongdoing.

Mr Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Both 26-year-old Jackson from Belfast, and 24-year old Olding, also from Belfast, are now free to resume their sporting careers which lawyers said were "blighted" by the false rape claims. Harrison told the jury he did not try and cover up the woman, and that, "Patrick Jackson is the last person in the world who would rape someone".

Fellow rugby players Blane McIlroy, who was accused of exposure, and Rory Harris, who was accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information, have also been found not guilty.

On Wednesday, the pair were found not guilty after the jury deliberated for almost four hours.

Mr McIlroy was home on holidays from his University studies in the Atlanta and Mr Harrison was working in Dublin at the time, but was back home in Belfast.

All four men stood in the glass dock of courtroom number 12 in the Laganside complex as the verdicts were read out.The judge had earlier warned members of the public not to react.

In relation to these differing accounts, Judge Smyth told the jurors it was up to them to decide if some or all of them are lying but she said just because an inconsistency exists, doesn't mean they're telling lies.

"Undoubtedly social media took the opportunity of a trial about intimate, private, very personal matters and managed to vilify and excoriate all concerned in it", she said. I don't agree with her perception of events and I maintain that everything that happened on that evening was consensual.

She said: "Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the dedicated service of the jury over the last nine weeks".

"Consistency had never been a feature of the complainant's evidence long before she entered the witness box".

Mr Harrison accompanied the complainant home in a taxi.

Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hillman was empathetic towards the woman and confirmed the naming of the woman on social platforms will be examined by police: "I would like to pay tribute to the young woman, who had the resolve and confidence to come forward and put her faith in the police and criminal justice process", she said.

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