Judge says tackle was criminal
by Shannon Kari
for CanWest News Service
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
An Ontario Superior Court judge has rejected an amateur soccer player's claim that an attack resulting in an opponent's broken leg was "within the ordinary course of the game" and upheld a conviction for assault causing bodily harm.
In a case with similarities to the incident involving Vancouver Canucks star Todd Bertuzzi and Colorado Avalanche player Steve Moore, Justice Casey Hill said a heated dispute in a sporting match may result in criminal penalties, in a ruling released earlier this month.
"A player may suffer bodily harm as a result of another player's deliberate conduct outside the scope of any actual or implied consent associated with participation in the sporting event," said Hill, a Superior Court judge in Brampton, Ont.
The defendant, Martin Owen, was charged as a result of an incident in a June 2001 recreational soccer match in the Brampton Friendly League.
The original trial judge heard that Owen told teammates he was going to "take care" of Wldyslw Kolodzinski, a player on the opposing team who had been warned by the referee for rough play. Owen allegedly went up to Kolodzinski and said "I'm going to break your f--king legs."
Owen denied the threat although he conceded that heated comments are sometimes made in a match to try to "secure a psychological advantage."
The referee testified that he saw Owen run "as fast he could, like a train" for about 10 metres and kick Kolodzinski near the back of his knee.
Kolodzinski's leg was broken in two places and in a cast for 17 weeks. Owen insisted he was going for the ball.
That evidence was rejected by the trial judge as well as Hill, as he dismissed an appeal of the verdict.
"Mr. Owen, motivated by circumstances earlier in the game, deliberately made direct contact with the back of the complainant's right leg in an attempt to harm or disable him," said Hill. Owen received a suspended sentence and 18-months probation.
In his decision, Hill referred to a 1991 Supreme Court of Canada ruling
that may apply to the Bertuzzi case should charges be laid.
The Supreme Court said there may be consent to injuries suffered in "rough sporting activities," such as hockey, as long as "the intentional applications of force to which one consents are within the customary norms and rules of the game."
Bertuzzi was suspended by the NHL for the rest of the season after he fractured Moore's neck when he punched him from behind and fell on his opponent during a game last month.