Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, rugby players with Ulster and Ireland, have been cleared of rape charges. The pair denied raping the same woman in Jackson’s bedroom on June 28, 2016.

The four men accused in the rape trial involving Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been acquitted. After eight weeks of listening to evidence and three hours and 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury of eight men and three women returned unanimous not guilty verdicts on all counts.

Both Jackson, 26, and Olding, 25, were standing trial for the rape of the same woman in Jackson’s bedroom in his home in south Belfast on June 28, 2016. Blane McIlroy was also accused of exposure while a fourth man Rory Harrison was charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information. All four were found not guilty.

The alleged incident was said to have taken place in June 2016 when the four men accused and four women went to Jackson’s house in south Belfast after a night out. Jackson was accused of following one of the women, a 19-year-old student, upstairs when she went to retrieve her purse. She claimed he then pushed her onto his bed and raped her.

Statement from Paddy Jackson outside the Belfast court

— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 28, 2018

Olding was also accused of orally raping the same woman, while McIlroy was accused of entering the bedroom naked and asking the woman for sex. Harrison was accused of covering up the alleged rape by misleading police and withholding information during the investigation.

Jackson has consistently denied having sex with the woman while Olding claimed the oral sex was consensual.

Paddy Jackson has been found not guilty of rape & sexual assault.

Stuart Olding has been found not guilty of rape.

Two other men charged have been found not guilty.

The jury of 8 men & 3 women reached a unanimous decision after 3 hrs 45 mins.

— Sara Moore (@saramoore_utv) March 28, 2018

The Belfast Crown Court heard during evidence that a witness, Dara Florence, walked into the bedroom and Jackson asked if she would like to join in.

It also heard how Harrison had dropped the woman home in a taxi at 5 am, texting her to say, “Keep your chin up, you wonderful young woman.”

In texts sent by the woman to Harrison the following day, she told him that what had happened “was not consensual” but he didn’t believe it. Harrison initially stood as a witness in the trial but was later charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information, although he was found not guilty. The taxi driver was also heard as a witness.

Jackson and Olding had been arrested two days after the incident in June 2016 after the woman reported the claim.

Stuart Olding, through his solicitor, says sorry to the woman.

— Francesca Comyn (@cescacomyn) March 28, 2018

Before the 11-person jury was discharged, Judge Patricia Smyth said, "This has probably been the most difficult trial that any jury in Northern Ireland has ever been asked to adjudicate on."

After the verdict, Jackson’s solicitor Joe McVeigh hit out at the investigation, claiming that much had been made of the privileged position his client held as a famous sports star.

Stuart Olding’s solicitor reads a written statement prepared by the Ulster Rugby player outside court.

— Sara Moore (@saramoore_utv) March 28, 2018

"It's our belief that the investigation has been characterized by the turning of a blind eye to inadequacies in the evidence of the complainant combined with the very apparent investigative bias," he said.

"The prosecution made much of a 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."

Read more: Famous Irish broadcaster apologizes for blaming rape victims

Extraordinary angry statement from Paddy Jackson’s lawyer. Says it was his status as an international rugby player that drove the decision to prosecute him for rape.

— Matthew Thompson (@mattuthompson) March 28, 2018

The case was closely followed in Ireland where the hashtag #IBelieveHer has been trending since the not-guilty verdict.

The #IBelieveHer hashtag gives an insight into how deeply upsetting this court case was for so many people. If nothing else, it must surely lead to a change in how rape trials are conducted. Is there any other crime in which the alleged victim appears to be the one on trial?

— Sarah McInerney (@SarahAMcInerney) March 28, 2018

“Why don’t people report? They’d report if it were true.” Here’s why. #IBelieveHer

— Tara Flynn (@TaraFlynn) March 28, 2018

I served on a rape trial jury last summer. A not guilty verdict does not mean no guilt. The standard of proof required to convict + unanimous agreement from 11 people is such a high threshold, it's a miracle it ever happens. The poor girl. #IBelieveHer

— Seb (@SebMcAteer) March 28, 2018

The Irish Rugby Union has stated that the futures of Jackson and Olding in the sport are still under review. The Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby opened a review immediately after the verdict to decide whether the players can return to their top-level careers. 

Read more: Man arrested in India over rape and murder of Irish women

Bhí sí gearrtha #IBelieveHer

— Orlaith Nic G (@orlaithnic) March 28, 2018

Paddy Jackson’s top priority is to get back to work playing for Ulster and Ireland, his solicitor tells the media

— Francesca Comyn (@cescacomyn) March 28, 2018

Statement from IRFU and Ulster rugby re Belfast rape trial

— Cianan Brennan (@ciananbrennan) March 28, 2018

Have you followed the Belfast rape case? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section, below.