Paddy Jackson’s solicitor yesterday stated the rugby player’s priority in the wake of his acquittal on rape charges was to return to work but the Ireland fly-half will not make an immediate comeback on the field of play.
Irish rugby chiefs have undertaken to review the futures of both Jackson and Stuart Olding after the Ulster players were acquitted of rape following a nine-week trial in Belfast.
Jackson and team-mate Olding had denied raping the same woman at a house in south Belfast in June 2016, shortly after their return from Ireland’s tour of South Africa.
Jackson was also found not guilty of sexual assault, a charge he had also denied.
The jury of eight men and three women at Belfast Crown Court returned its unanimous verdict yesterday after deliberating for a total of three hours and 45 minutes.
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and Ulster Rugby have now launched a review, which will determine whether Jackson and Olding can resume their top-level rugby careers in Ireland.
“The IRFU and Ulster Rugby note the verdict handed down today at the Belfast Crown Court in relation to the case brought against Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding,” read a joint IRFU and Ulster Rugby statement issued shortly after their verdicts were handed down.
“We wish to acknowledge that this has undoubtedly been a difficult and extremely traumatic time for all involved.
“To respect the judicial proceedings the IRFU and Ulster Rugby postponed any internal review of the matter with the players, until the proceedings concluded.
“IRFU and Ulster Rugby officials will review the matter, in line with existing procedures for all contracted players.
“A review committee, made up of senior representatives of the IRFU and Ulster Rugby, has been appointed and will conclude its review as soon as practicable. The players will continue to be relieved of all duties while the review committee is in process and determining its findings.”
Both Jackson, 26, and Olding, 25, have been stood down from Ireland and Ulster duty since charges were brought against them in July 2017.
Jackson’s most recent action as a player had come a month earlier on Ireland’s summer tour to Japan, when he kicked five conversions in the second Test in Tokyo, his 25th Test appearance.
Olding’s fourth and most recent Test cap had come the previous summer in South Africa.
Both players may now be able to relaunch their playing careers although Ireland and Ulster will clearly tread carefully before making any further decisions.
It is understood, however, that a number of top clubs in England and France are monitoring Jackson’s situation, which could provide another route back into frontline action.
Both Olding and Jackson thanked their legal teams and families for the support they received during the proceedings with Jackson adding: “Out of respect for my employers I have nothing further to comment.”
His solicitor Joe McVeigh did make a statement on behalf of Jackson, which said: “We are grateful to the jury for reaching what was a commonsense verdict of not guilty on all counts.
“Paddy has been consistent in his denials and in his account. Consistency has never been a feature of the complainant’s evidence long before she entered the witness-box. So these acquittals should come as no surprise to anyone.
“Paddy leaves court for the last time today as he entered it almost 10 weeks ago: An innocent man.
“The prosecution made much of a perceived privileged position, provided by virtue of Paddy being an international rugby player. We say that it is this very status as a famous sportsman that drove the decision to prosecute in the first place.
“Paddy and his parents have paid a heavy price — personally, professionally, and financially. As for Paddy, his priority now is to return to work.”
Ulster Rugby’s fortunes have also taken a downturn this season. Without either international since the end of last season, the province not only failed to progress into the knockout stages of this season’s Champions Cup but have struggled in the PRO14 league campaign and parted company with director of rugby Les Kiss at the end of January.
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