Brawling golfers must foot €80,000 legal bill
BLAME for the bloody battle in the loo of a golf club remains unresolved after a judge threw out a €38,000 damages claims for assault by one club member against another.
Now golfers Alan Holmes and Martin Curtis have been left to share the estimated €80,000 legal costs associated with an incident which Judge Joseph Mathews described as "like a scene from 'The Sopranos'".
Mr Holmes, of Rathdown Drive, Terenure, Dublin, and Mr Curtis, of Brooklodge, Curryhills, Prosperous, Co Kildare, have also been left to ponder spending as much again in an appeal to the High Court.
At the Dublin Circuit Civil Court yesterday, Judge Mathews said no one else had witnessed the assault in the blood-spattered toilets at the historic Lucan Golf Club following the weekly Wednesday fourball.
"It was simply not possible to say whether Holmes or Curtis was giving a true account of the events they described," he said.
"There was no independent means of verifying who struck the first blow; who, in truth, was the aggressor and who the victim."
The judge outlined the January 2003 incident, saying good-natured banter between Manchester United fans and supporters of "anyone but United" watching a televised match against Blackburn had led to offence being taken over a €100 bet offered by Mr Curtis and refused by Mr Holmes.
Having met later in the toilets, Mr Holmes claimed Mr Curtis head-butted him in the face. Mr Curtis counter-claimed it had been Mr Holmes who attacked him and he had punched him full in the face.
"There is no corroboration of either man's allegation of assault. . . save for the word of the participants," the judge said.
"Both suffered injuries but as to who struck the first blow it is simply not possible to say."
The judge said both Mr Holmes and Mr Curtis knew the truth, but their evidence was entirely at odds with each other.
Each swore the other was giving false evidence. Each blamed the other entirely for assault. Both had given very convincing testimony, but only one of them could be telling the truth.
He said the court had heard evidence of "overheard conversations" in the loo and a meeting in the Lucan Spa Hotel to agree statements and "get stories right", but he did not find conspiracy in the case.
Credibility was crucial and it was difficult if not impossible to measure credibility when met by assertion and counter-assertion, allegation followed by utter denial.
"The dilemma that faces me is the say-so of one man against the other . . . it is an unfortunate case dating back seven years involving members of a golf club that has a long and distinguished history," the judge said.
The core issue of who struck who first remained shrouded in mystery, he said.
Neither party had proved its claim and the judge had to dismiss both with no order as to costs.
The parties have a fortnight in which to lodge an appeal.