Former Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding “suffered a huge financial detriment” defending himself in a trial which lasted almost ten weeks, a court heard on Friday.
The rugby player’s legal team made an application for part of his legal costs to be reimbursed in front of trial judge Patricia Smyth at Belfast Crown Court.
A similar application has already been mounted by co-accused Paddy Jackson, with the decision pending.
Mr Olding (25), formerly of Ardenlee Street in Belfast, was acquitted on a charge of oral rape following a mammoth trial held earlier this year.
He and Mr Jackson were charged with raping a 19-year old student in the bedroom of Mr Jackson’s south Belfast home following a night out in the VIP section of Ollie’s nightclub in June 2016.
Following the acquittal in March this year, Mr Olding joined French side Brive after his contract with Ulster and Ireland was revoked, and signed a two-year deal with the French side in May.
Telling the court that as a result of the trial Mr Olding lost his career here, was unable to work in this country and had to leave his family and friends to seek work outside Ireland, his barrister argued that his defence costs should be retrieved.
Frank O’Donoghue QC spoke of the devastating financial affect part-fundng his own defence has had on the rugby player in a prosecution he argued was flawed from the outset, adding “his reputation was destroyed to the extend he cannot follow his profession in this country again.”
Mr O’Donoghue suggested the case against his client was flawed for a number of reasons, including a prematurity in charging Mr Olding and a misunderstanding of the facts due to inconsistencies in the complainant’s account.
Mr Olding financed his own defence up until February 19, when an application for Legal Aid was made, and subsequently granted.
Arguing that after one count of vaginal rape was withdrawn against Mr Olding before the trial started, Mr O’Donoghue said his client shouldn’t have been prosecuted on the second charge of oral rape.
Telling the court “my client has suffered a huge financial detriment and that is why I am here,” the senior barrister spoke of the impact the prosecution and trial had on Mr Olding.
Asking Judge Smyth to take into account Mr Olding’s personal circumstances, Mr O’Donoghue said: “Mr Olding has had to exhaust his own personal funds. Before he accessed Legal Aid, he suffered the penalty of the financial burden of defending himself.
“He exhausted his disposable income by February 19 and he had a huge expenditure up until that date.
“He has been, as a consequence, completely unable to work in this jurisdiction. He had to leave his family, he had to leave his friends and he had to start afresh in a different country. He lost his international career, he lost his provincial career.”
When questioned where asked about exactly why his contracts with Ireland and Ulster Rugby were terminated – and when Judge Smyth asked whether it was a result of WhatsApp messages which formed part of the trial – it emerged that further clarity needed to be sought ahead of the next hearing.
The application was adjourned until October 26, when the Crown will respond to the defence application.
Before adjourning the application, Judge Smyth told the court “evidentially this is extremely complex.”