In 1823, William Webb Ellis first picked up the ball in his arms and ran with it. And for the next 156 years forwards have been trying to work out why. - Tasker Watkins VC, LJ.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

RWC Part IX - Ghiraldini and Mitigation

Lorenzo Ghiraldini has been suspended for 15 weeks for going for Cian Healy's eye in the Ireland-Italy game last Sunday. The decision is HERE.

As regards the decision itself, I have to say I think it's on the light side as a sentence. I'd have started at 24 weeks, increased it to 30, as the Judicial Officer did, but I would have allowed no more than six weeks in mitigation. This offence needs to be stamped out.

That said, while I think the JO was wrong on that, the reasoning is transparent, and perfectly lucid. If it's an error, it's an error within jurisdiction, to use the legal terms; and that, I suppose, is as much as one can ask for before one starts moving from the realm of rugby law into that of rugby fan.

What I do want to highlight, however, is this comment towards the end of the decision.

In doing so [applying a 50% discount] I paused to note a 50% discount where all factors to be considered under Rule 12.4 are met does not follow as a matter of course. It is not prescribed in the Rules not is it a rule of practice as seems to be the perception in some quarters. What discount is applicable in any given instance is a matter for the discretion of the Judicial Officer concerned by reference to the facts and circumstances of each case as he finds them bearing on the issue of sanction.

Now, that may seem innocent enough; but when you look at it in the light of the recent slew of decisions where precisely this topic has come up at this RWC - and on which I've been commenting here - there is clearly an open debate taking place within the Judicial Officers at this RWC about exactly where, when, and how the maximum possible discount is to be applied. This is all the more so when that discount has been applied even in cases where some of the necessary mitigating factors are missing, and indeed even when the JO has held that it wasn't a case where a minimum on the sanction should not be breached before going right ahead and doing just that.

In that regard, this is welcome, because it brings that debate out into the open for all of us - lawyers, rugby supporters and those of us in both camps - to thrash out.

It'll come up again before this RWC is finished. It will be one I'll be watching with interest.

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