Northern Ireland news

Rory Best to pay 'substantial' damages to Paddy Jackson defence lawyers

 Ireland rugby captain Rory Best had previously told of the "really, really difficult time" he went through when he was called as a character witness at the Belfast rape trial of his team mates Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

Former Ireland and Ulster rugby captain Rory Best is to pay "substantial" undisclosed damages to a team of defence lawyers over an interview he gave about an ex-teammate’s rape trial, the High Court heard today.

He also issued an apology to the legal representatives of Paddy Jackson as part of a settlement reached in their libel action against him.

In 2018 Mr Best, 39, attended the high-profile trial in Belfast where Mr Jackson was ultimately acquitted of rape.

Another former Ulster player, Stuart Olding, was also cleared of raping the same woman.

Two years later Mr Best, who earned 124 caps for Ireland, referred to his attendance at the trial during an appearance on an Irish sports radio show.

Defamation proceedings brought by the legal team who successfully acted for Mr Jackson centred on comments made in that interview.  

Solicitors Kevin Winters and Joe McVeigh, of Belfast firm KRW Law, and barristers Brendan Kelly QC and Stephen Toal, all sued for libel.

In court today a statement was read out on behalf of Mr Best to confirm the terms of the settlement.

His senior counsel, Gerald Simpson QC, instructed by Fergal McGoldrick of Carson McDowell, said: “On January 22, 2020 I gave an interview to Newstalk’s Off the Ball.

“During the course of that interview I made reference to the legal team acting for former Ulster Rugby player and colleague, Paddy Jackson.

“I wish to make it clear that I had not intended to impugn the integrity of these lawyers, who at all times treated me with the utmost respect and professionalism.”

The statement went on: “Insofar as any of my comments did not make absolutely clear, I did not, and did not intend, to criticise Mr Jackson’s legal team nor did they mislead me in any way.

“I unreservedly apologise to Paddy Jackson’s legal team and have agreed to pay the plaintiffs substantial damages, and to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs.”

Outside court Rory Lynch of Gately Tweed, representing the plaintiffs, said: “Our clients are very satisfied with this comprehensive and categoric, albeit belated, vindication of their reputations”. 

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