Rugby stars face rape prosecutions

Ulster and Ireland players Paddy Jackson, 25, and Stuart Olding, 24, strenuously deny the offence, which was alleged to have happened in Belfast last June.

The Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby said they took the allegations “extremely seriously” and announced both players would be “relieved of their duties and obligations” until the conclusion of the court process. Given the length of time court proceedings take in the North, it is likely both will miss the entirety of the coming season.

The men were arrested and questioned last summer. They were released pending a report being submitted to Northern prosecutors.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said four men questioned in relation to the incident are to be prosecuted. Jackson and Olding are to be prosecuted for rape. Olding faces an additional count of sexual assault. Another man is accused of sexual offences, and the other faces counts of withholding information and perverting the course of justice.

Summonses were served on the men on Monday. They will appear in court to face the charges next month.

Fly-half Jackson has been capped for Ireland 25 times, while centre Olding has played four times. The two Belfast men are established stars for Ulster Rugby.

Lawyers for Jackson and Olding stressed that the men denied the charges.

Jackson’s solicitor Kevin Winters said they were disappointed at the PPS decision to prosecute.

“Our client rejects completely the allegations made against him and we are confident he will be exonerated in due course,” he said. “We will push for as early a hearing as possible as Patrick wants to quickly resume playing his rugby for Ulster and representing his country.”

Olding’s solicitor, Joe Rice, said: “It is disappointing that, over a year since the original allegation was made, the PPS has now issued a decision to prosecute. My client has co-operated fully with the police investigation.”

The PPS confirmed a decision has been taken to prosecute four men for offences relating to an allegation of rape on June 28, 2016, in south Belfast.

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