IRELAND INTERNATIONAL RUGBY players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding are among four men who will be prosecuted for offences relating to an allegation of rape.
Both players “strenuously deny” the allegations against them, the IRFU and Ulster Rugby said in a joint statement on Tuesday evening.
Jackson and Olding were questioned by the PSNI last year as part of an investigation into an alleged rape on 28 June 2016 in south Belfast.
Both men were released without charge but the Public Prosecution Service confirmed on Tuesday that they have sufficient evidence to proceed with cases against four individuals.
All four men were informed of the decision on Monday and are due to appear in Laganside Court, Belfast, next month.
Olding’s solicitor confirmed to The42 that he will plead not guilty to the two charges of rape which he faces. Jackson’s solicitor could not be contacted for comment at the time of publication, but confirmed to the BBC that his client is to be prosecuted for alleged rape.
Another man is being prosecuted for sexual offences, while a fourth is being prosecuted for intent to pervert the course of justice and withholding information.
In a statement, KRW Law, representing Jackson, said: “We are very disappointed at the decision of the PPS to prosecute given the particular circumstances and facts known in this case.
“Our client rejects completely the allegations made against him and we are confident he will be exonerated in due course.
“Given that the case will be a jury trial it is absolutely critical that nothing is done or said in the media to prejudice due process and to that end we urge restraint on any sensationalist reporting.
“We will push for as early a hearing as possible as Patrick Jackson wants to resume playing his rugby union for Ulster Rugby and representing his country for the IRFU.”
Joe Rice, solicitor for Olding, told The42: “My client will be pleading not guilty and welcomes the opportunity to clear his name through the criminal justice system.
“He is anxious for the case to proceed and has every reason to believe that he will be acquitted.”
In a joint statement issued on Tuesday evening, the IRFU and Ulster Rugby said that both players have been relieved of their duties while the case is ongoing.
Jackson, 25, has won 25 Test caps for Ireland, including six appearances this year, most recently against Japan having joined the squad after the US leg of the summer tour.
Olding, 24, has played for Ireland four times in an injury-plagued career, scoring one try.
“The players have cooperated fully and strenuously deny the charges,” the statement read.
“The IRFU and Ulster Rugby take these allegations extremely seriously.
“To allow the players time to address this matter fully Ulster Rugby and the IRFU have agreed that they be relieved of their duties and obligations until the conclusion of this process. Appropriate support structures will be put in place with them during this time.
“As this is a matter for the Public Prosecution Service it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
The full statement from the PPS read as follows:
The PPS has confirmed today that a decision has been taken to prosecute four men for offences relating to an allegation of rape on June 28, 2016 in south Belfast.
All four were informed of the decision on Monday July 22, 2017 and are due to appear in Laganside Court, Belfast next month.
A PPS spokesperson 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 as follows:
“One man is being prosecuted on a charge of rape contrary to Article 5 (1) of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 and a charge of sexual assault contrary to Article 6 (1) of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.
“A second man is being prosecuted on two charges of rape, contrary to Article 5 (1) of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.
“A third man is being prosecuted for an offence contrary to Article 70 of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.
“A fourth man is being prosecuted for doing an act with intent to pervert the course of public justice contrary to Common Law and with withholding information contrary to Section 5 (1) of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967.”
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.
– Additional reporting by Sean Farrell; comments closed as criminal proceedings have commenced.