The independent Judicial Officer, HH Judge Jeff Blackett (England), last night (Monday, 18 January 2010) heard submissions on sanction from ERC and the Player, David Attoub, the Stade Francais Paris replacement prop (No 17), and has now reached a decision with regard to sanction.
The sanction is imposed as a result of a citing arising from the Heineken Cup Pool 4 match against Ulster Rugby at Ravenhill, Belfast, on Saturday, 12 December 2009. The citing, lodged by the Citing Commissioner for the match, Tony Lanaway (England), was for alleged contact with the eye / eye area of Ulster Rugby player Stephen Ferris (No 6) in contravention of Law 10.4 (l).
At the initial independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin on Friday, 18 December 2009, the independent Judicial Officer had determined that further evidence needed to be considered and adjourned the hearing. The independent Judicial Officer had imposed an immediate interim suspension on the player pending the outcome of the reconvened hearing.
At the reconvened hearing at Heathrow on Wednesday, 13 January 2010, the independent Judicial Officer heard evidence from Mr Attoub and Mr Ferris as well as expert evidence on behalf of Mr Attoub. Following submissions on behalf of Mr Attoub and ERC, the independent Judicial Officer adjourned the hearing and retired to consider the evidence.
On Friday, 15 January 2010, the independent Judicial Officer found that an act of foul play had occurred in that Mr Attoub had made contact with the eye / eye area of Ulster Rugby player Stephen Ferris (No 6) in contravention of Law 10.4(l). A further hearing was scheduled to deal with sanction.
After submissions on sanction from Mr Attoub and ERC at yesterday evening's reconvened hearing, the Judicial Officer found that the offending was in the top-end in the level of seriousness for an offence of contact with the eye / eye area.
Having taken into account any mitigating and aggravating factors, particularly the Player's disciplinary record (which comprised 3 suspensions and included a suspension for contact with the eye / eye area in an ERC match in season 2004/05), the IRB directive (July 2009) regarding contact with the eye / eye area, and the fact that the player pleaded not guilty, the independent Judicial Officer suspended the player for a period of 70 weeks commencing 18 December 2009, and up to and including 22 April 2011.
HH Judge Jeff Blackett in his judgement said that "This is the worst act of contact with the eyes that I have had to deal with: it is a case of deliberate eye gouging ...".
ii) Citing Commissioner:
a) Citing Commissioners will be appointed by ERC for all Heineken Cup and all televised Amlin Challenge Cup matches and shall be entitled to cite a Player for any act or acts of Foul Play that in the Citing Commissioner's opinion warranted a citing.
b) For such matches Clubs will not have the power to cite a player but may refer incidents to the Citing Commissioner within 24 hours of the conclusion of the match.
c) The Citing Commissioner will have 50 hours from the start of the game to make a citing and the determination of the Citing Commissioner will be final and binding. In exceptional circumstances this deadline can be extended.
d) The Disciplinary Officer may forward the submitted Citing to a Citing Officer to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for the citing to progress.
e) The Disciplinary Officer will then bring a charge against the cited player.
(iii) Independent Disciplinary Hearing:
a) Citing hearings will be heard by an independent Judicial Officer as soon as is practicable. Until the hearing a cited player is eligible to play in ERC tournaments
b) The independent Judicial Officer is chosen by the Chairman of the independent Disciplinary Panel, Professor Lorne Crerar.
c) The ERC Disciplinary Officer, Roger O'Connor, presents the case against the player
d) Both parties to the hearing (ERC and the player) have the right to appeal decisions of the independent Disciplinary Hearing. Appeals must be lodged within 72 hours of receiving the full written decision from the Chairman of the independent Disciplinary Committee