Case study - Assault on a football field



Our client was participating in a grade level rugby union match. While on the ground after a tackle, he was kicked in the head by a player from the opposing team. Our client got to his feet and approached the player who had kicked him. After a brief verbal exchange our client punched the other player in the face 3 times. The other player sustained fractures to his nose and cheekbone.


Approximately 1 year later, our client was charged with Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm




There was no question that our client had caused the injuries to the complainant. The issue was whether our client’s actions in striking the complainant were permitted or excused by law. In particular, whether the defences of provocation, self-defence and consent were available to our client.





Our entered a plea of not guilty. The matter proceeded by way of a summary trial in the Magistrates Court.


The prosecution witnesses, including the complainant, gave evidence and were subject to cross-examination. Having regard to the evidence given by the witnesses under cross-examination, our client did not give or call evidence himself.


The presiding Magistrate accepted defence submissions that the prosecution had not negatived, beyond reasonable doubt, the defences of provocation, self-defence and consent, which were all clearly raised in the prosecution case.




Our client was found not guilty and discharged unconditionally by the Magistrate.


Key Points


  1. During contact sports it is not uncommon for tempers to flare and fights to break out from time to time. While for the most part, once the fight has been broken up that will be the end of the matter, it is important to note that an act of violence on a sports field can result in a criminal prosecution.

  2. Criminal offences relating to on-field violence might include common assault, assault occasioning bodily harm or grievous bodily harm, depending on the severity of the injuries.

  3. An act of violence might attract more than an on field penalty, dependent upon the level of force and injury suffered.










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