Belfast court hears Paddy Jackson has paid ‘enormous’ cost despite rape acquittal

Judge reserves judgment on whether rugby player should be awarded his legal fees

Former Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson: he was unanimously acquitted in Belfast Crown Court of raping a woman. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Former Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson: he was unanimously acquitted in Belfast Crown Court of raping a woman. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Former Ireland and Ulster Rugby player Paddy Jackson has paid an “enormous” cost despite being acquitted of rape in March, a Belfast court has been told.

Lawyers for Mr Jackson today applied to Laganside Crown Court for the reimbursement of his legal costs arising from his defence.

At the conclusion of the hearing Judge Patricia Smyth reserved her judgment until a later date. She said she was not able to say when she will issue her ruling due to “pressures of other work”.

Mr Jackson paid for the costs of his own defence during the nine-week trial as he didn’t qualify for legal aid. Those earning more than £375,000, or about €430,000, a year are not eligible for legal aid.

Laganside Crown Court heard Mr Jackson was earning significantly more than this.

The court heard Mr Jackson has already paid his legal fees with “considerable help from his parents.”

His co-accused, Stuart Olding, who was also acquitted of oral rape, is to seek his costs at a later date. He paid his costs privately until about half way through the trial when he ran out of money and was granted legal aid.

Under Northern Ireland law acquitted defendants can apply to the trial judge for their costs from the Public Prosecution Service. Such applications are rare as most defendants accused of serious crime are on legal aid.

Mr Jackson’s counsel, Brendan Kelly QC, based his application on several grounds including the 13 month delay in charging his client with an offence and what he said were “defects” in the police investigation.

Mr Kelly said Mr Jackson was “without employment and without offer of employment,” following his dismissal from the Irish and Ulster Rugby squads.

“He has paid an enormous price for the events of that evening despite what we would say is a resounding acquittal in this case. He did every he was supposed to in this case. We would argue he did nothing at all to bring this on.”

Counsel for the Public Prosecution Service Toby Hedworth QC resisted the application. He said there are very few examples of an acquitted defendant receiving their costs. He also argued it is not the prosecution’s fault Mr Jackson lost his job. He said he lost his job because the public became aware of details of his private life. “Those considerations should not bear upon this.”

Mr Jackson and his teammate Stuart Olding were unanimously acquitted of all charges in March following a nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court.

Their friends Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison were also acquitted of related charges.