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Rugby stars will not get legal costs reimbursed

Stuart Olding (left) and Paddy Jackson (right) were both unanimously cleared during the trial earlier this year Credit: Pacemaker

A judge has dismissed applications made on behalf of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding to recover legal costs after the pair were unanimously acquitted of rape charges earlier this year.

Judge Patricia Smyth, who had presided over the 10-week trial at Belfast Crown Court in March, was asked to consider defence applications on behalf of both the former Ulster and International rugby players, requesting their legal costs be reimbursed by the Public Prosecution Services.

The application asked the judge to take into account the financial and personal consequences to the pair following the high-profile trial, including damage to their reputations and the termination of their contracts with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).

Both men have since moved to France to continue their careers.

In March both Mr Jackson and Mr Olding were unanimously acquitted of raping a student in Mr Jackson's south Belfast home in June 2016.

Mr Jackson funded his own legal costs throughout the trial, while Mr Olding financed his own defence up until February 19, when an application for Legal Aid was granted.

The court heard Paddy Jackson had paid off his mortgage and had savings, but had to draw on his mortgage and borrow money from his father’s retirement money to fund his defence.

Before the applications submitted to the court were concluded the court had invited both men to provide evidence of their current financial situations and contracts of employment, along with information about any financial settlements agreed when their contracts were terminated by the IRFU.

The court was told Mr Jackson and Mr Olding intended to rely on the statements already lodged.

On Friday the judge told the court that Mr Jackson had: “declined the opportunity to provide evidence regarding his current financial situation, including the extent to which he has repaid the debt to his father."

During the 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.

Neither men were in court but Mr Jackson's parents were present in the gallery.

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The judge 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."

She added: "Having considered all of the relevant factors, I am satisfied that there is no basis for exercising my discretion in the applicant's favour."

The applications were therefore dismissed.