In the few months that have ensued post the controversial Paddy Jackson- Stuart Olding Rape trial, various other contentious issues have followed. Firstly, there was heated debate about the judgment, the trial process and particularly rape culture in Ireland. Then there were divided opinions on whether the IRFU should cancel their contracts with both Ulster and Ireland. The most recent controversy, however, has occurred due to Jackson’s and Olding’s application to recoup their legal costs from the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS). Jackson brought his action in May, almost directly after the trial and the decision is still pending. Olding’s case, however, was only recently brought before the courts.
After four weeks of the nine-week trial, Olding was granted legal aid. He is now attempting to recover the other costs the legal process and his costly defence generated. Olding’s lawyer emphasised the ‘huge financial detriment’ that Olding had suffered due to the trial process and claimed his client had to ‘exhaust his own personal finances’ before becoming eligible for legal aid. He also asserted that his reputation had been ruined due to the rape allegation and therefore should be entitled to financial retribution. However, the prosecution demonstrated that Olding and his defence supplied no evidence to support this claim. A barrister for the prosecution, Ms Walsh, explained that his lawyers had been given ‘ample opportunity’ to detail and prove the extent of the claimed detriment but had decided not to. Although Olding’s contract with Ulster rugby has been terminated there were little or no details around the termination of his contract, the compensation he may have been offered, his current remuneration at his new club in France, whether he received relocation expenses for moving to France and what happened to his property in Belfast. It is essentially at the court’s discretion to consider whether financial circumstances should be considered when considering whether the applicant will be awarded their legal costs. Ms Walsh, therefore, highlighted that absolutely no evidence was given to the court to decide on in the first place and therefore exercising their discretion was an objective task.
The prosecution barrister also stipulated that the contention that the prosecution against Mr Olding should not have proceeded was ungrounded and pointed to the fact that at no point did the defence sought to halt the trial due to a lack of evidence. If the defence had attempted to avoid the immense legal fees that came with the case by pointing out at an earlier stage that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the trial, they may have had a stronger leg to stand on. Retrospectively claiming there was insufficient evidence to have held a trial in the first place is redundant; the costs have already transpired. After listening to both sides of the argument the judge said that she would reserve judgment on this issue. She gave no indication as to when she would issue her judgment.
By Aoibhinn Martin – Law Writer