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'wholly premature' Ex-Celtic and Derry City star Paddy McCourt 'absolutely denies' sexual assault

McCourt's solicitor says his client presented himself to police and cooperated fully

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Paddy McCourt in his Northern Ireland days

Paddy McCourt in his Northern Ireland days

Paddy McCourt in his Northern Ireland days

A solicitor for former Celtic and Derry City football star Paddy McCourt has said his client “absolutely denies” an allegation of sexual assault.

Ciaran Shiels also said the decision to charge the ex-Celtic player was “wholly premature” and that he was confident his client would be vindicated.

The solicitor said he was speaking out following “an irresponsible, entirely untrue and misleading news article” which alleged that a woman in her 20s had been “attacked” in a Londonderry bar.

He added that, in normal circumstances, a person suspected of such an offence would have been released on police bail pending further enquiries but this didn’t happen in the footballer’s case.

On Thursday, the PSNI said that they had charged a 38-year-old male with sexual assault, and that he was due to appear before Londonderry Magistrates Court on February 23.

Under Northern Ireland law, it is an offence of sexual assault for a person to intentionally touch another person sexually without reasonable belief that they had consented.

A statement released on behalf of Mr McCourt by Mr Shiels, of Madden & Finucane Solicitors, said that when their client, a married man with a young family, was informed of the complaint, he immediately went to the police station.

“On Sunday January 30, 2022, the PSNI contacted a member of our client’s family and informed them that a complaint had been made in the early hours of that morning concerning an incident alleged to have occurred at the open public bar area of an extremely busy nightspot in Derry City Centre shortly before 1am,” it said.

“Mr McCourt then immediately presented himself at Strand Road PSNI station.

“He remained there until police were ready to interview him that evening in respect of alleged sexual assault on a female.

“He was interviewed twice and answered every single question put to him by police.

“He maintained his innocence consistently throughout and commented fully on the limited evidence put to him. In particular, this included CCTV footage obtained from a camera positioned behind the bar area and facing patrons.”

The statement said the footage in question “depicts a busy nightclub” and Mr McCourt, who was capped 18 times for Northern Ireland.

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“A taxi had been ordered and was on its way to bring our client home,” the statement continued.

After describing an alleged incident, the statement added that Mr McCourt, who has played for clubs in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic, “cooperates fully with staff who requested that he leave until CCTV be reviewed”.

That statement confirmed that “at the conclusion of his interviews under caution a decision was taken to charge Mr McCourt”.

“The PSNI took this decision despite the fact that Mr McCourt had provided a full account and consistently maintained his innocence,” it said.

“Further, police had failed to speak to a potentially crucial witness who was stood with Mr McCourt and the forensic enquiry, which Mr McCourt had voluntarily cooperated and entirely agreed with had only been commenced.”

Mr Shiels said he believes the decision to charge Mr McCourt was “wholly premature ... particularly in circumstances where the witness evidence thus far obtained by police, was significantly incomplete”.

He added that “the forensic enquiry could easily take six months, given the target date that the Forensic Science Agency will apply to the allegation made in this case”.

“In normal circumstances, where a person is suspected of such an offence, and necessary investigative and forensic work remains substantially outstanding, a release on police bail pending further enquiries would have been the fair, proportionate and entirely expected outcome on Sunday evening.

“This did not happen ... This is an issue we will be raising formally in the appropriate forum.”

Mr Shiels said he had issued a statement “following an irresponsible, entirely untrue and misleading news article published by The Sun newspaper alleging that a woman in her 20s was ‘attacked’ in a Derry bar and that the criminal charge in this matter arises from an ‘attack’".

He added: “Further social media posts have incorrectly alleged that the incident was clearly evidenced by way of CCTV. We can confirm that this is not the position.”

Mr Shiels said it was inappropriate to comment further at this time “other than to say, Mr McCourt absolutely denies the allegation and that we are confident that Mr McCourt will be vindicated and his good name restored”.

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