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05th Dec 2023

Former Celtic star Paddy McCourt successfully appeals sexual assault conviction

Lee Costello

McCourt was initially found guilty last May.

Former Celtic and Northern Ireland footballer Paddy McCourt has successfully appealed against a conviction for sexual assault.

The 40-year-old was found guilty last May for sexually touching a woman in a bar in Derry back in January 2022, but McCourt had always denied the allegation.

District judge Ted Magill at Derry Magistrates’ Court handed down a three-month sentence, which was suspended for two years last July.

The Donegal native made his intentions to appeal the conviction clear form the beginning and on Tuesday morning after Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) offered no evidence, his appeal was successful.

Rosemary Walsh appeared for the PPS during hearing at the County Court in Derry and said that they had issues around witnesses who had previously identified the former footballer.

Paddy McCourt

“This was a matter concerning an allegation of sexual assault against Mr McCourt, and there hadn’t been a dispute as part of the lower court proceedings that the victim was the subject of a sexual assault by one of two individuals who were at a bar and situated just behind her at the material time,” she said according to reports.

“The issue in this case was identification of which of the two individuals was the person that had assaulted her. She had her back turned at the time and wasn’t in a position to be able to say which of the two it was.

“Since the lower court hearing there have been evidential difficulties that have arisen with witnesses, important witnesses who had provided identification evidence and we do have problems with those witnesses.

“The prosecution has kept the matter under review and we are now in a position where we are not going to be contesting the appeal so I will be formally offering no evidence today.”

Paddy McCourt

Eoghan Devlin, who was acting for McCourt, said he did not intend to “rake over the ashes of what happened in the lower court”, but did state that there were a “series of issues that the prosecution faced in terms of difficulties and failures in the investigation”.

“Suffice to say that my client has always accepted this lady was assaulted but not by him,” he said.

“I would ask that your honour would dismiss the charge.” Judge Philip Babington allowed the appeal.

Speaking outside court, McCourt’s lawyer Ciaran Shiels said his client had been through an ordeal for almost two years.

“He should never have been charged in relation to this case, never mind prosecuted,” he said.

“This man should never have been charged, let alone put through the process and the ordeal that he’s had to face for the guts of two years.”

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