RUGBY star Alesana Tuilagi has been left without a criminal record after admitting he injured a man with a single punch in a row outside a Dublin nightclub.
Tuilagi (33) struck the victim in the face on a city street in a drunken “lapse of judgement” while he and his Leicester team-mates were out after a match at the Aviva Stadium three years ago.
They had lost the Heineken Cup quarter final to Leinster and the two teams were socialising together before the incident happened, Dublin District Court heard.
Judge Anthony Halpin struck out an assault charge against Tuilagi after hearing he had already paid “significant” compensation to the victim in the settlement of a civil action.
Tuilagi, a father-of-two with an address c/o Newcastle Rugby Club pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Conall McLoughlin at Harcourt Street on April 10, 2011.
The Samoan international plays for the Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership in England but was with the Leicester Tigers at the time of the assault.
Detective Inspector Anthony Howard said on the night, an altercation took place and the accused struck the victim, who suffered minor injuries.
No further details of the altercation or the injuries were disclosed. A medical report was handed to the judge, who was told the victim had made a full recovery.
Tuilagi had no previous conviction and had co-operated fully with the gardai. He returned to Ireland by arrangement in August this year to be charged.
Defence Solicitor Peter Connolly asked Det Insp Howard if the accused had made a good impression.
“I would have no hesitation in stating he was a gentleman,” he replied.
Mr Connolly said the two teams had ended up going out together, then this “regrettable incident happened.”
Tuilagi “wouldn’t during the season drink to any appreciable extent,” he said.
The defendant sincerely regretted hitting the victim, had taken full responsibility, was remorseful and wished him well. The incident was “out of character” for him.
Tuilagi was coming into the twilight of his professional rugby playing career but hoped to go into coaching after he retired.
His club understood his predicament and was happy to stand by him.
“It was a pent up lapse of judgement, unfortunately while he was intoxicated,” Mr Connolly said.
He asked the judge to leave Tuilagi without a blemish on his record.
Judge Halpin said the accused was a professional rugby player and bodily harm was “itself an acceptable consequence of engaging in that sport.” This could be seen on television in the “robust, full-body tackles” and was “part and parcel of the sport.”
“Somebody of the accused’s nature has to be cautious and careful to avoid such situations of confrontation and aggression because they can be prone to overstepping the mark, even unintentionally,” Judge Halpin said.
A conviction could inhibit Tuilagi’s ability to travel, the court heard.
The judge said the compensation received by the victim was “more than generous.”
He struck the charge out.
Dressed in a blue sweater, blue and white checked shirt, tan trousers and black shoes, Tuilagi did not address during today’s hearing.
He joined the Newcastle Falcons in England's Aviva Premiership in the UK during the summer after leaving Japanese club NTT Shining Arcs.
Previously in his club career, he had spent eight years with Leicester Tigers helping them win the Premiership trophy three times.