Rugby captain a character witness at Ulster team-mates’ rape trial

Ireland and Ulster rugby captain Rory Best who says he is to be a character witness at the trial of two teammates for rape. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire
Ireland and Ulster rugby captain Rory Best who says he is to be a character witness at the trial of two teammates for rape. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Ireland and Ulster rugby captain Rory Best says he is to be a character witness at the trial of two teammates for rape.

Best, who led the Irish team to victory against France in the Six Nations tournament on Saturday, was spotted at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday where Stuart Olding, 24, and Paddy Jackson, 26, are standing trial accused of rape.

The Ireland and Ulster rugby players are accused of raping the same woman at a property in south Belfast in June 2016. Jackson is also charged with sexual assault.

Speaking at a press conference after the match in Paris, Best was asked if the Irish Rugby Football Union had given him permission to attend the trial.

He told reporters: “We sign out on Tuesday night, Wednesday is our day off, so technically we don’t need permission to do stuff on our own time.

“The reason I was there, it’s on the record I’ve been called as a character witness.

“I was advised it was important to attend, so I got both sides of the story.

“Because it’s an ongoing legal matter, I will make no further comment than that.”

Fellow Lions, Ireland and Ulster star Iain Henderson was also seen at the court last week.

Ireland and Ulster winger Craig Gilroy was also present at the trial on Wednesday, as was Ulster prop Kyle McCall.

Alliance Party Northern Ireland Assembly member Paula Bradshaw said she had written to Ulster Rugby asking what guidance was provided to its team members in relation to attending the rape trial.

Olding and Jackson deny the charges.