Northern Ireland news

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding accept judgement against them in privacy case against BBC NI

 Paddy Jackson (right) and Stuart Olding were found not guilty of rape in March. Pictures by Hugh Russell

Former Ulster Rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have accepted judgement against them in a High Court privacy case they brought against BBC Northern Ireland concerning their arrests for alleged sexual offences.

The players, who were acquitted of rape in March, have agreed to pay £20,000 plus VAT towards the BBC's costs.

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding also accepted judgement against them in another related court action against freelance sports journalist Orla Bannon, the BBC reported. 

Both players, who have been linked with a move to Sale Sharks rugby club in England, were suing BBC NI, which, in October 2016, reported their arrests before charges were made.

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding said this constituted a breach of privacy and accused the BBC of not allowing enough time for a right of reply.

They also raised issues about how the information was obtained.

The BBC defended the claim, contending its reporting was factual and in the public interest, due to the two players' profile, interest in provincial and international rugby, and the nature of the police investigation.

The BBC NI Head of News, Kathleen Carragher, said she believed the players' acceptance of the judgement against them "vindicated our journalism".

She added: "We argued throughout this case that our reporting was responsible, accurate, in the public interest and observed the BBC guidelines.

"We are pleased that the players have accepted this outcome and have also agreed a contribution towards our legal costs."

Settlement was agreed at the High Court in Belfast.

In March Mr Jackson, 26, was acquitted of rape and sexual assault of a woman at his Belfast home in June 2016.

Mr Olding, 25, was also cleared of raping the same complainant.

Amid controversy over social media and text messages which emerged during the high-profile trial, a subsequent conduct review resulted in both players having their contracts revoked by the IRFU.

It was expected that their civil actions would resume following their acquittals in the criminal case.

But in court today counsel for the BBC, Richard Coghlin, announced proceedings were being brought to an end on terms outlined.

"We ask the court to enter judgment in favour of the defendant against both plaintiffs," he said.

The barrister also asked Mrs Justice Keegan to make an order for Mr Jackson and Mr Olding to pay £20,000 plus VAT towards the BBC's costs.

Peter Girvan, representing the players, raised no issue with the terms.

"Mr Coghlin has put the position very fairly and accurately," he said.

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