Latest: I never saw Paddy Jackson being violent, says ex-player Declan Fitzpatrick

Update 5pm: Retired Ireland and Ulster rugby star Declan Fitzpatrick has told a court he never witnessed his former team mate Paddy Jackson being violent.

Mr Fitzpatrick gave character evidence in Jackson's defence at his rape trial at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday.

The 34-year-old said he was one of Ulster Rugby's senior squad when Jackson joined the academy and despite being eight years older the pair became friends.

"We became friends quite early. You wouldn't normally become friends with a junior guy but we had a similar sense of humour," said Mr Fitzpatrick.

"He kept his head down, worked hard. He blended into the background. He was talented, but always grounded."

Mr Fitzpatrick told the court that in 2011 Jackson attended his wedding for the evening party and had also joined him on his stag do in Liverpool.

He described Jackson as a "sociable guy" who "enjoyed the craic".

Paddy Jackson

"He blended into the background. He didn't stand out for any reason. He was just one of the lads," said Mr Fitzpatrick.

When asked if Jackson ever caused any trouble, he replied: "Never."

He also said Jackson was not "loud".

"He wasn't a vocal guy. He was good to talk to. He wouldn't be screaming and shouting and standing on tables," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

"He dealt with a lot of pressure but stayed the same guy. He was just Paddy really."

When asked if he had ever witnessed Jackson being violent on the pitch he said: "Never on the training field or playing.

"He was competitive but he played within the rules. There are guys out there out to hurt people on the field."

Mr Fitzpatrick also said he never witnessed any bad behaviour from his former team mate.

"He was always very placid. He was focused. You respected his judgment on the field. For a young guy he showed leadership. He was never out to hurt someone," he said.

Earlier: Olding tells rape trial he did not use woman as a 'vehicle' to satisfy his sexual desires

Update: 2.45pm: Stuart Olding has refuted suggestions he used a woman who has accused him of rape as a "vehicle" to satisfy his sexual desires.

The Irish international was giving evidence in his defence at Belfast Crown Court.

He conceded that the young woman would not have been a match for two professional rugby players but insisted the sexual activity was consensual and rejected prosecution claims that his account of the night was nonsense.

Prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC said: "That night you were not interested in what [the complainant] wanted to do or was prepared to do.

"She was, I suggest, to each of you just a vehicle for your own sexual desires that night?"

Olding, 24, who denies rape, answered: "I wouldn't put it that way."

Olding and his Ulster and Ireland team-mate Paddy Jackson, 26, deny raping the same woman at a house party in south Belfast in June 2016.

Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Mr Hedworth began his cross-examination after Olding had spent almost two hours answering questions from his defence counsel Frank O'Donoghue QC.

The prosecutor put it to him: "I am asking you to consider what you did to (the woman) in the early hours of June 28th, 2016 and what you did you knew full well you should not have done."

He replied: "I don't agree with that."

The prosecution said: "When you entered that bedroom that young woman looked at you and said to Paddy Jackson 'please, no, not him too'."

Olding replied: "I don't remember any of that happening."

Olding told the court he was "invited" to join the sexual activity by the complainant.

"I was invited in by (her) and that's the reason I went in," he added.

The court heard how the rugby player, who had returned from a tour of South Africa as part of the Ireland squad, had consumed eight tins of Carlsberg, four pints of Guinness, two gin and tonics, five vodkas with lemonade, five shots of Tequila or Sambuca and another beer during the course of the night.

He had also eaten pizza as well as a burger and chips.

"To put it in jargon," the prosecution lawyer said, "it was a bit of a skin full."

Mr Hedworth continued: "The danger if you have had far too much to drink is the situation where people are doing things that are not only not appropriate but are downright wrong."

Olding answered: "For some people yes, but I was in complete control of my actions."

The lawyer added: "If you had that amount of drink there's a danger of disregarding the wishes or views of another person if they get in the way of what you want to achieve."

Olding replied: "I wouldn't agree with that."

The trial, which is in its sixth week is being heard by a jury of eight men and three women.

Olding insisted the sexual activity had been consensual and said if he had been aware of distress he would not have continued.

The prosecution put to Olding: "There comes a stage that night where you and Paddy Jackson are in his bedroom with that young woman.

"You are both professional rugby players. Your work is physically engaging, using not only your skill but also your strength in an attempt to overpower your opponent. What match is a [young] woman going to be for the pair of you if she is going to try to resist?"

Olding answered: "If she had resisted in any way or didn't want it to happen I wouldn't have had a problem, I would not want it to happen, I wouldn't have carried on."

But pressing the point further the prosecution again asked what match the woman would have been for the two accused if she didn't want to engage in sexual activity.

Olding answered: "I don't think she would be a match."

Later, Mr Hedworth rubbished Olding's account that he had been beckoned into the bedroom.

"She just beckons you in and you take over. This is complete nonsense, isn't it Mr Olding?"

The defendant replied: "No, it is not nonsense at all."

The trial continues.

Update - 1.40pm: Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding has told a court he is embarrassed and not proud of text exchanges in which he boasted of sexual activity.

The 24-year-old, who denies rape, was giving evidence on his own behalf at a high-profile trial in Belfast Crown Court.

He said: "I feel very embarrassed sitting here reading them.

"I am certainly not proud talking like that.

"But I did it, I have done it and I shouldn't have done it."

The court has previously heard about a series of exchanges with friends on the WhatsApp messaging service in which Olding had posted: "We are all top shaggers."

"It was immature boasting with my friends," he told the court.

Olding also referred to a "spit-roast", something he understood was a slang reference for a threesome or sexual activity involving a woman "in between" two men.

Explaining his WhatsApp comment in which he said: "It was like a merry-go-round at the carnival", he added: "It does not even mean anything. It was just said in an excited state. It is nonsense."

Olding was questioned for almost two hours by his defence counsel Frank O'Donoghue QC.

He gave graphic detail of the oral sex he says was "performed" by the complainant for about 10 minutes with two brief interruptions - once when co-accused Paddy Jackson went to look for a condom and when he "asked" the woman to remove her top.

When asked if there was anything to suggest the complainant was not consenting to what was happening, he said: "No, not at all.

"If I had thought that, nothing would have happened, nothing would have started and nothing would have continued."

He had earlier been asked if he had forced the woman in any way.

Olding answered: "No, I did not force her in any way."

The rape trial being heard by Judge Patricia Smyth is now in its sixth week.

The court heard how Olding had initially gone upstairs to find somewhere to sleep.

The door to Jackson's room was closed but he opened it and walked in.

He said: "I saw Paddy on his back and (the alleged victim) on top of him and they were kissing at the time.

"I'm certain Paddy's top was off. I'm not sure about his trousers. (The woman) was fully clothed."

When asked what his reaction had been, he said: "I had just intruded in two people kissing on the bed. I turned to leave."

He added: "(The woman) turned around and held out her hand as an invitation to stay. I'm sure of that.

"I closed the door and went over to the bed and started to kiss (her)."

12.06pm: Olding insists he told the truth to police, court hearsUlster and Irish rugby player Stuart Olding has insisted he told the truth when police questioned him about rape allegations.

The 24-year-old, who denies rape, was giving evidence at his high-profile trial in Belfast Crown Court.

Defence counsel Frank O'Donoghue QC asked: "You gave your account to police when you were arrested on June 30 [2016].

"Do you stand by what you told the police? Is that the truth?"

Olding replied: "That is the truth."

The court also heard how Olding had returned from a South African rugby tour as part of the Ireland squad shortly before the alleged rape, on June 28th, 2016.

He said: "Things had gone very well for me on the tour.

"I had managed to get two caps. I thought I was really going to progress from there.

"I was delighted. I was in a good place."

The jury of eight men and three women were told how Olding and co-accused Paddy Jackson, who also denies rape, were close personal friends.

"Yes, he is a very close friend," Olding said.

Evidence was given about his education at Ben Madigan primary school and Belfast Royal Academy as well as his rugby career, which has been dogged by injury with a number of surgeries to repair torn ligaments on his knee and elbow.

He has delayed completing a Sport Science degree at Ulster University because of rugby commitments, the court was told.

Meanwhile, Olding was also quizzed about alcohol consumption.

He said: "I would consume alcohol in my time off.

"Usually, it is pretty confined to when I am off, that's the chance we get to relax."

Paddy Jackson, 26, from Oakleigh Park in Belfast and Stuart Olding, 24, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman in south Belfast in June 2016.

Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast has pleaded not guilty to exposure while Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road in Belfast has pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The case continues.

- Press Association


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