Northern Ireland news

Rory Best instructed by counsel to attend rape trial of Ulster rugby teammates

Ulster's Rory Best pictured on his way into court on Wednesday 
Lesley-Anne McKeown, Press Association

Ireland rugby captain Rory Best was instructed to attend the rape trial of two international teammates by senior counsel, a court has heard.

The jury of nine men and three women heard he had been asked by a senior barrister to attend the hearing at Belfast Crown Court last week.

Judge Patricia Smyth said: "The only reason that Mr Rory Best was in this courtroom was because he was directed to be here by senior counsel.

"That's the reason he was here. That's the only reason. I think you should know that."

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

Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Two other men have also been returned for trial on charges connected with the same incident alleged to have happened at an after-party following an evening at a Belfast nightclub on June 28, 2016.

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

The judge referenced press coverage of Mr Best's attendance.

She said: "You may have been aware of press coverage about the attendance at this trial of Mr Rory Best."

Judge Smyth added that it may have been "hard" not to be aware of the coverage.

The trial, which is in its sixth day, is continuing to hear evidence from the complainant in the case.

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