Judge in rugby stars' rape trial to hear arguments over reporting restrictions

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding
Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

A judge is to consider whether there is any legal basis for continuing reporting restrictions on the rape trial of two Ireland rugby internationals.

Judge Patricia Smyth said she would hear legal argument on the matter this week.

Ireland and Ulster player Paddy Jackson, 26, and team-mate Stuart Olding, 25, were unanimously acquitted of rape by a jury which deliberated for three hours and 45 minute after a nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court.

Jackson was also unanimously acquitted of sexual assault.

Restrictions preventing reporting on legal exchanges that take place in the absence of the jury usually fall away once the trial is over, as the issue of prejudicing jurors is no longer relevant.

A number of outlets that covered the marathon trial are now seeking to get ongoing restrictions imposed by Judge Smyth lifted.

The case had been listed for hearing on April 25 but lawyers for the press want it dealt with expeditiously.

Gerry Simpson QC, representing a number of print and broadcast media, said: "This is a matter which we say should be dealt with very quickly."

He said there was "no basis" for the continuation of restrictions.

Barrister Stephen Toll, representing Jackson, said: "I do not think we have proper focus on the issues because the media are refusing to say what applications they are wanting to rule on.

"They can stand on their rights and that is their prerogative.

"We may have a concern about the Convention rights (human rights) of the defendants and other persons that may be affected."

Mr Simpson said: "The media are not refusing to do anything. I have no idea because I do not intent to ask the media.

"That's the wrong question to ask."

The lawyer added that the "only question" was to ask if there is a "lawful basis " for the continuation of restrictions.

Judge Smyth said: "I agree that is the correct question that we have to address."

Two other men were also found not guilty of lesser charges connected to the alleged incident in June 2016.

Blane McIlroy, 26, was acquitted of exposure, while Rory Harrison, 25, was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The case has been adjourned until April 11.