Rugby rape trial: Paddy Jackson tells court he has never thrown a punch
Ireland rugby player Paddy Jackson has taken the stand on the opening day of the defence case at his rape trial in Belfast.
The 26-year-old, who denies raping a woman at a house party in south Belfast in 2016, told the court he was not a violent person and had never thrown a punch.
Jackson, who also denies a charge of sexual assault, was being questioned by his defence counsel Brendan Kelly QC at Belfast Crown Court.
He said: "I have never been in a fight before. I am not an aggressive person."
The barrister added: "Have you ever as much as thrown a punch Mr Jackson?"
To which the defendant replied: "No."
The court also heard about Jackson's close friendships with some well-known rugby players including Irish captain Rory Best.
Inquiring about social interactions involving Mr Best, the lawyer asked: "You were tasked with babysitting his children?
Jackson replied: "Yeah, I would and I got invited to his son's sixth birthday."
Jackson also described co-accused Stuart Olding as a "very close friend", having met at the Ulster Rugby Academy.
He has been friends with Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison, who are also facing charges connected to the incident, since school.
Paddy Jackson, 26, from Oakleigh Park, in Belfast, and Stuart Olding, 24, from Ardenlee Street, in the city, deny raping the same woman. Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.
Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road, Belfast, denies exposure while Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.