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Rugby star Rory Best apologises and agrees to pay damages for rape trial remarks

Rugby star Rory Best apologises and agrees to pay damages for rape trial remarks
Rory Best, © PA Archive/PA Images

PA reporter

Former Ireland and Ulster rugby captain Rory Best has apologised and agreed to pay substantial damages to four lawyers over comments he made about a former teammate’s rape trial.

Paddy Jackson was acquitted of rape and sexual assault after a trial at Belfast Crown Court in 2018.

Fellow Ulster and Ireland player Stuart Olding was also cleared of rape in the same case.

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Best, now 39, had been listed as a potential character witness for Jackson but was not called to give evidence.

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted of rape at a trial in Belfast in 2018 (Niall Carson/PA)

However, he faced criticism after attending the trial ahead of his potential witness appearance.

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In an interview with Off The Ball on Newstalk in 2020, Best spoke of his regret at attending court.

Other comments he made in the interview prompted members of Jackson’s legal team to issue proceedings against him.

Solicitors Kevin Winters and Joe McVeigh and barristers Brendan Kelly QC and Stephen Toal took defamation proceedings against Best.

The case at Belfast High Court has now been settled.

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In a court statement on Tuesday, Best, who won 124 caps for Ireland, said: “On January 22nd, 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.

“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.”

The four plaintiffs welcomed the settlement in a statement issued by their solicitors Gateley Tweed.

“Our clients are very happy with this comprehensive and categoric, albeit belated, vindication of their reputations,” the statement said.

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