Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding fail to recoup legal costs
An application made on behalf of rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding to recover legal costs incurred during their lengthy rape case has been dismissed in court today.
Judge Patricia Smyth - who presided over the trial at Belfast Crown Court earlier this year - was asked to consider defence applications on behalf of both men, requesting their legal costs be reimbursed by the Public Prosecution Services.
Both Mr Jackson (26) and Mr Olding (25) were unanimously acquitted by a jury in March of raping a student in Mr Jackson's south Belfast home in June 2016. Neither men were in court for today's ruling, but Mr Jackson's parents were present in the public gallery.
While Mr Jackson funded his own legal costs throughout the 10-week trial, Mr Olding financed his own defence up until February 19, when an application for legal aid was made and granted.
In the aftermath of the trial, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) terminated the pair's contracts with both the Irish team and Ulster Rugby. Both men subsequently secured deals with teams in France.
Barristers for the pair each launched applications to recoup their client's legal fees from the PPS's purse. Their barristers argued that both men had suffered huge financial loss and damage to their reputations as a result of the trial, and both had to move away to pursue their careers.
During today's ruling at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Smyth pointed out there were no guideline cases in either the UK or Ireland to compare this application to.
The trial judge also said she had taken into account the "special facts and circumstances" of the case.
Judge Smyth said: "This was a complex police investigation and the prosecution was warranted, albeit the jury did not consider that the charges had been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
"The evidence bore the characteristics of a Rubik cube, capable of bearing myriad conclusions, depending on the jury's view of the evidence. But those were conclusions for the jury to reach, and not the prosecution.
"Having considered all of the relevant factors, I am satisfied that there is no basis for exercising my discretion in the applicants favour. The applications are therefore dismissed."
It emerged during today's ruling that as part of the application made on behalf of Mr Jackson, the court was provided with information from both Paddy and his father Peter setting out what they paid in legal costs.
The court heard Mr Jackson paid his mortgage off and had savings but had to draw on his mortgage and borrow money from his father's retirement money to fund his defence.
In her ruling, Judge Smyth said Mr Jackson's father "was not required to contribute his retirement monies". The Judge also revealed: "Mr Jackson has declined the opportunity to provide evidence regarding his current financial situation, including the extent to which he has repaid the debt to his father."