By Rebekah O’Sullivan and Matt Burgess, Director.
Many injuries occur to participants during the game of sport and this is often seen as an accepted part of participating in sport. However, in certain situations, specific injuries can occur that are not part and parcel of the game or within the rules. These types of injuries can be considered illegal. Throwing a punch during a football match or a dangerous high head tackle can lead to a criminal case being brought against the player for assault.
This was the lesson learnt by Minchinbury Jets player, Raman Shemonov, 24 who allegedly punched a 16 year old linesman and fractured his jaw. This occurred during a match between his team and the Blacktown Worker’s soccer club on May 27, when the linesman made the offside ruling against Shemonov’s team.
Some may saw that the passion involved here is simply part of the game of soccer but the resulting behaviour? The Blacktown and District Football Association say no, and we think as would the heavy majority of any community. They handed down a life ban over the incident, stopping Shemonov from playing in any officially sanctioned soccer competition across the country, ever again.
When does criminal law step in?
Section 245 of the Criminal Code (Qld) defines assault as the following:
1) A person who strikes, touches, or moves, or otherwise applies force of any kind to, the person of another, either directly or indirectly, without the other person’s consent, or with the other person’s consent if the consent is obtained by fraud, or who by any bodily act or gesture attempts or threatens to apply force of any kind to the person of another without the other person’s consent, under such circumstances that the person making the attempt or threat has actually or apparently a present ability to effect the person’s purpose, is said to assault that other person, and the act is called an assault.
Assault cases such as Raman’s are often caused by a deliberate act whereby the participant intended to injure another.
What about verbally abusing opponents or officials? Is this considered assault?
Verbal threats to seriously injure, or kill another person is considered as an assault, but the threat has to create a fear that it would be carried out. Threats that are unlikely or impossible would not normally be considered as an assault. Threatening to kill or injure someone is a crime that is not taken lightly by any of the states. In some jurisdictions, threats to kill carry a maximum of 10 years imprisonment if it is real, rather than fanciful.
What are the defences against assault?
There is of course the argument that the athlete assumes certain risks by participating in a game however, this ceases when rules are broken as it is generally assumed that the rules are to be followed by all participants. Specifically, penalties can be reduced or lead to an acquittal if a complete defence is established. If the player has no other option but to defend themselves in the manner they did, then that could be a successful defence. There would need to be a threat either against themselves, or another person from unlawful deprivation of liberty. There must be no other option available in the circumstances but the action of defending oneself in order to trigger the availability of the defence.
So, while the passion of camaraderie and competitive spirit is always encouraged in every sporting arena around the world, as with many aspects of society, there is a line where the moment gets away from the individual and criminal acts result. The rules of sport assist to create a buffer well ahead of criminality stepping in – so play fair and by the rules to avoid going to court!
This blog is for discussion purposes only. This must not be considered legal advice.
For legal advice on this topic and references to any information in this article, please contact
Matt Burgess, Director:
Phone: +61 405 722 739
Connect with Matt on Linked In
Image Credit: graur codrin
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