Northern Ireland news

Ulster and Ireland players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding deny rape allegations, lawyers tell court

Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding were not legally required to attend today's hearing
Deborah McAleese, Press Association

Two Ulster and Ireland rugby stars accused of rape deny all allegations against them, a court has heard.

Paddy Jackson (25) and Stuart Olding (24) were not at Belfast Magistrates' Court on Wednesday when the case was brought before a judge for the first time.

The short legal proceedings saw the charges lodged officially with a district judge.

Lawyers for the sportsmen told the court they were not legally required to attend the hearing, which lasted less than 10 minutes. The court accepted this.

Olding, of Ardenlee Street, Belfast, is charged with two counts of rape.

Jackson, of Oakleigh Park, Belfast, is charged with one count of rape and one of sexual assault.

The offences are alleged to have been committed against the same woman in Belfast last June.

Lawyers for Jackson and Olding told the court the pair deny all the allegations.

They also requested from the Public Prosecution Service copies of photographs and videos related to the case.

The Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby have said Jackson and Olding will not play again until the court process concludes.

Given the length of time proceedings are expected to take, it is likely both will miss all of the coming season at the least.

The men were arrested and questioned last summer, then released pending a report to prosecutors in Northern Ireland.

Last month, the Public Prosecution Service decided they had a case to answer and summons were served.

Charges against two other men connected with the case were also lodged with the court in their absence.

Blane McIlroy (25) from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, and Rory Harrison (25) from Manse Road, Belfast, also opted not to attend the hearing.

McIlroy is charged with one count of exposure, and Harrison is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Their legal teams told the court they deny the charges.

Fly-half Jackson has been capped for Ireland 25 times and centre Olding has played four times.

They are established stars for Ulster Rugby.

The case was adjourned until September 6.

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