I never saw Paddy Jackson being violent, says ex-player Declan Fitzpatrick

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Retired Ireland and Ulster rugby star Declan Fitzpatrick has told a court he never witnessed his former team mate Paddy Jackson being violent.

Mr Fitzpatrick gave character evidence in Jackson’s defence at his rape trial at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday.

The 34-year-old said he was one of Ulster Rugby’s senior squad when Jackson joined the academy and despite being eight years older the pair became friends.

“We became friends quite early. You wouldn’t normally become friends with a junior guy but we had a similar sense of humour,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.

He added: “He kept his head down, worked hard. He blended into the background. He was talented, but always grounded.”

Mr Fitzpatrick told the court that in 2011 Jackson attended his wedding for the evening party and had also joined him on his stag do in Liverpool.

He described Jackson as a “sociable guy” who “enjoyed the craic”.

“He blended into the background. He didn’t stand out for any reason. He was just one of the lads,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.

When asked if Jackson ever caused any trouble, he replied: “Never.”

He also said Jackson was not “loud”.

“He wasn’t a vocal guy. He was good to talk to. He wouldn’t be screaming and shouting and standing on tables,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

He added: “He dealt with a lot of pressure but stayed the same guy. He was just Paddy really.”

When asked if he had ever witnessed Jackson being violent on the pitch he said: “Never on the training field or playing.

“He was competitive but he played within the rules. There are guys out there out to hurt people on the field.”

Mr Fitzpatrick also said he never witnessed any bad behaviour from his former team mate.

“He was always very placid. He was focused. You respected his judgment on the field. For a young guy he showed leadership. He was never out to hurt someone,” he said.