Mr Tuitupou pleaded not guilty to the citing complaint. After considering the evidence and hearing submissions on behalf of Mr Tuitupou and from Roger O'Connor, ERC's Disciplinary Officer, the independent judicial officer, Simon Thomas (Wales), determined that Mr Tuitupou had committed the act of foul play and imposed a suspension of three (3) weeks. Mr Tuitupou will be free to play again on 1 November, 2010.
Under the Disciplinary Rules for the 2010/11 Heineken Cup, independent judicial officers are required to follow the sanctioning regime laid down by the International Rugby Board. Accordingly, having found that Mr Tuitupou had committed an act of foul play, the independent judicial officer was required to determine the 'entry point' for Mr Tuitupou's suspension, based on an assessment of the seriousness of his actions.
The possible 'entry points' for an infringement of Law 10.4(j) are lower end: three (3) weeks; mid-range: six (6) weeks; and top end: 10 weeks or more. Having determined the appropriate 'entry point', the independent judicial officer was then required to consider whether that 'entry point' should be varied to take into account any mitigating factors (such as the player's conduct, remorse and plea) and any aggravating factors (such as his previous record and any need for deterrence).
In this case, the independent judicial officer determined that the appropriate 'entry point' was lower end, ie three (3) weeks based on (among other things) Mr Tuitupou's recklessness and the injuries sustained by Mr Hodgson. The independent judicial officer increased the suspension from the entry point by one (1) week to take into account the need for a deterrent to combat this type of offending, and then balanced this by decreasing the suspension by one (1) week to take into account Mr Tuitupou's conduct at the hearing, which resulted in the final suspension of three (3) weeks.
The independent judicial officer ordered Mr Tuitupou to pay costs.
i) Citing commissioners
a) Citing commissioners are appointed by ERC for all Heineken Cup and all televised Amlin Challenge Cup matches and are entitled to make a citing complaint against a player for any act of foul play that, in the citing commissioner's opinion, warranted a red card.
b) For such matches, clubs do not have the power to make a citing complaint against a player but may refer incidents to the citing commissioner.
c) The citing commissioner ordinarily has 50 hours from the start of the match to make a citing complaint and the determination of the citing commissioner is final and binding.
d) The Disciplinary Officer may forward any citing complaint to a citing officer (or 'gatekeeper') to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for the citing complaint to proceed.
e) If a citing complaint is to proceed, the Disciplinary Officer will then bring a complaint against the cited player before an independent judicial officer.
(ii) Judicial officers
a) Citing hearings will be heard by an independent judicial officer (or, in some cases, an independent disciplinary committee of three) as soon as is practicable. Under ERC's Disciplinary Rules, until the hearing, a cited player is not suspended.
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 (the Disciplinary Officer and the player) have the right to appeal against decisions of the independent judicial officer. Appeals must be lodged by 4pm (GMT) on the third working day after receiving the full written decision of the independent judicial officer.
e) The full written decision of the independent judicial officer will be available on www.ercrugby.com/disciplinenewswhen the disciplinary process has been completed.