Ireland rugby internationals Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson have been cleared of rape following a trial in Belfast.
Jackson was also found not guilty of sexual assault. Speaking outside court afterwards, he thanked the judge and the jury for “giving me a fair trial”.
After also thanking his lawyers, and his family for their support, he said he had nothing else to add “out of respect for my employers”.
But his solicitor, Joe McVeigh, claimed the “prosecution made much of the perceived privileged position provided by
virtue of Paddy being an international rugby player”.
“We say that it was this very status as a famous sportsman that drove the decision to prosecute in the first place,” he added.
The teammates, aged 25 and 26, had denied raping the same woman at Jackson’s home in south Belfast in June 2016 following a night out.
Another man, 26-year-old Blane McIlroy, was found not guilty of exposure.
A fourth man, 25-year-old Rory Harrison, was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
Jackson, McIlroy and Harrison were permitted to leave the dock first.
The court was told a short time later that no evidence had been offered by prosecutors on a charge of vaginal rape against Stuart Olding.
Judge Smyth then directed the jury to find him not guilty.
Including the four defendants, a total of 30 witnesses gave evidence during the nine-week trial.
The complainant gave testimony over eight separate days.
The jurors will now be exempt from jury service for life, the judge telling them it had “probably been the most difficult trial that any jury in Northern Ireland has ever been asked to adjudicate on”.
The Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby said officials would now “review the matter, in line with existing
procedures for all contracted players”.
“We wish to acknowledge that this has undoubtedly been a difficult and extremely traumatic time for all involved,” the organisations said in a statement.
From – SkyNews