Is biting someone serious? Obligatory World Cup shoe horn post

Is biting someone serious? Obligatory World Cup shoe horn post

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Photo from the Huffington Post
Photo from the Huffington Post

Introduction
Apparently, there’s some sort of sporting contest between gentlemen underway in the Southern Hemisphere, where one participant has behaved in a less than Corinthian-like way (allegedly).

 

Facts

During the Italy v Uruguay game there was an ‘incident’ between Giorgio Chiellini and Luis Suarez. The case against Mr Suarez is that during a clash in the Italian penalty box he bit Mr Chiellini on the shoulder.

This is backed up by not just the word of the Italian fellow, but by replays of the thousands of tv cameras in the stadium. There is also the aftermath of the alleged bite on the said italian’s neck.

There are two sides to every story of course. Mr Suarez has now put his forward. In his own words – “I lost my balance … falling on top of my opponent … I hit my face against [Chiellini], leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth“.

It’s the sort of defence that any self-respecting magistrate would dispatch in an instant. And FIFA did not appear that troubled by it, banning him for nine matches and ‘any football related activities’ for four months. There was also a fine of £65,000 – small change to him.

There is an appeal mechanism but this ruling seems to be safe. Whilst there have been calls for a prosecution, there is no realistic possibility of that.

 

 

What would happen under English law?

We have a factsheet on the difference offences against the person. Whilst this is a ‘wound’ and could be charged as the more serious offences under s20 or s18 Offences against the Person Act 1861, it would be charged in practice as causing Actual Bodily Harm.

The Sentencing Guidelines for Assault would be, as always, the starting point. It’s slap bang in the middle, we would suggest, giving a sentence of six months after a trial.

Biting is taken very seriously by the courts – it is seen as being the same as an attack with a weapon (Attorney-General’s Reference No 7 of 1994 [1995] 16 Cr App R(S) 300) and would be seen as a severely aggravating feature.

Conclusion
People can be prosecuted for their actions on a pitch, although such prosecutions are rare.

If this were to happen in England then, despite the often trigger-happy nature of the police and CPS, it wouldn’t be prosecuted in a way it would be if it happened outside a nightclub on a Saturday night.

Is that right or not? Is it time the authorities clamped down on such behaviour by making an example of someone, or is it better to leave it to the FA and other relevant bodies to police?

 

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Sara is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers practising in crime.

1 COMMENT

  1. I think there are some forces which would prosecute for this on pitch conduct had it been in the UK. I’ve seen several trials where amateur players have been prosecuted for assault which goes beyond horseplay…

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