FORMER Formula One driver Eddie Irvine is to appeal a six- month jail sentence handed down by an Italian court for his part in a nightclub brawl.
The 48-year-old was involved in a violent row over a woman with Gabriele Moratti in the VIP section of a Milan club.
Moratti is an Italian socialite and the son of Letizia Moratti, formerly the Italian Minister of Education, University and Research from 2001 until 2006 and the mayor of Milan from 2006 until 2011.
He has strong connections to politics, economics and sport. His uncle has just sold a controlling share in the soccer club Inter Milan.
Both men were sentenced to six months in prison after a judge held them both responsible for the 2008 fight.
However, they are expected to lodge appeals which could push the case beyond the statutes of limitations in 2015 -- meaning they are unlikely to serve jail time even if the conviction is not overturned.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Irvine's lawyer Marco Baroncini said that he is now looking at ways to prove his client's innocence.
"Unfortunately, there is a risk of the case reaching the statute of limitations in 2015," said Mr Baroncini, "but in any case there are still processes open to us.
"We will appeal. We'll appeal to prove that the reaction of Eddie was not excessive, but rather it was justified by the necessity to defend himself."
Irvine was not in court to hear Judge Marco Formentin condemn the brawl that took place in the nightclub called Hollywood in December 2008.
The court heard that the row started because Moratti was jealous of the ex-Ferrari driver, who is reported to be worth €100m, talking to Moratti's ex-girlfriend, Giorgia Re. The Italian told the court that Irvine threw a glass at him and that he sustained an injury to the face, where he still has scaring above the eye.
Lawyers for Irvine claimed that the Co Down native was attacked from behind and tried to defend himself. Irvine is said to have suffered a perforated eardrum.
The case ended up in the court after both men decided to sue each other for assault and battery.
Lawyers representing Moratti claimed that Irvine had asked for €200,000 to settle the case out of court, before both parties pressed ahead with the acrimonious court battle.
The former Jordan and Jaguar driver spent the most high-profile years of his professional career in Italy, working for Ferrari, where he was team-mate to the seven-times Formula One world champion, Michael Schumacher.
The German is currently fighting for his life in a French hospital following a skiing accident.
Irvine is known to be a fan of Milan and regularly visits the northern Italian city.
After the ruling, the judge passed on the court records to the public prosecutor, who has been asked to investigate for evidence of perjury. The judge has suggested that several witnesses may have given false declarations during the case.