Friday 24 March 2017

Legal lesson for schools

Whatever the merits of an individual case, it was still depressing to hear that a schoolboy rugby player had been represented by legal counsel at a disciplinary hearing. The result was that the player, red-carded in a Leinster schools semi-final for allegedly making contact with the eye area of an opponent, received no further sanction and is cleared to play in this week's final.

The Leinster Referees, while not expressing any dissatisfaction with the outcome of the case, have now decided they too will need legal counsel at future hearings.

Natural justice requires that a young player should not be denied the chance to play in a final if he is innocent of the offence that caused the red card to be shown, but that case should be made by the player and his coach and should not involve legal representation. If they can convince a disciplinary panel, so be it.

Professional players are fully entitled to a legal team to protect their reputation and their trade, but it is nonsensical for the schools game to tolerate such hubris.

Will the Leinster Branch provide legal aid for children who cannot afford senior counsel? Will schoolboy sanctions be appealed to Europe? Will outraged parents seek High Court injunctions against future rounds of a cup being played until their son's case has been heard in Brussels? Or will young players be taught to respect referees and accept their punishment -- without the benefit of learned friend's advice?

aruddock@independent.ie

Sunday Independent

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