The decision was made at the Supreme Court of Judicature in the Court of Appeal, Criminal Appeals division on 21 December 2004. The case was heard at this court because of it the highest court and hears cases of appellants who are not satisfied with the ruling of the jury at their trials. The criminal department specializes in determining whether the criminal rulings made by the lower courts adhere to the rulings stipulated by the laws of the country. The judges who heard the appeal were the Lord Chief Justice of England and Whales Honorable Justice Cresswell and the Honourable Justice Simon.
Issue of Appeal
The issue of the appeal arose from the appellant claiming that he was convicted unfairly because it was not an intentional act for him to cause bodily harm to another player while in the pitch. The issues arise because there are no stipulated laws that provide for criminal action to be taken against a player who in the course of playing causes bodily injury or harm to another player. Whether or not to convict a player for causing bodily injury is an upcoming trend and therefore the courts need guidance on how best to handle this issue. This issue arises from the fact that the appellant made a tackle allowed in the rules guiding football therefore, he claimed that the injury was not intentional. The main issue, in this case, is how well the courts can handle the issues relating to bodily harm especially those caused during the course of playing where players play by the rules of the game, and when can the injured take criminal action against the player who caused an injury. The matters conceded on the appeal include the fact that the appellant Mr. Brown admits to committing the tackle but defends his acts claiming it was in accordance to football rules and regulations. The other matter conceded was that the judge did not have well laid out aspects needed to make a ruling in the case of an injured player as the jury asked him after the trial. The court of appeal also conceded that there is no need for criminal charges for players who injure themselves in the fields because they can get damaged in civic action and does not term it as a criminal offense. The other matter conceded in the court was the fact that sports have their own rules and regulations and what can be illegal in one sport is legal in the other one. This is evident in the example of boxing and prize fighting where one is legal though it causes intentional harm to the other player, while the other has the same effects.
The ratio decidendi of the R v. Barnes case depends majorly on the extent of bodily harm to the victim and whether respondent can prove that the injury was not accidental. According to Honorable Justice Cresswell, the Act of 1861; Section 47 which provides that wounding of a person or inflicting bodily injury in an unlawful manner, but is in contrary to Section 20 of the same act that states causing bodily injury with intent. Section 18, which calls for a criminal case based on manslaughter in case a player dies. The other ratio decidendi comes from the general rules that state that with the consent of the victim in a case where there is no bodily harm or injury, but in a case where the injury is evident then there is no exception because the law does not agree with consent to body injury. The case of R v Cey (1989) 48 C.C.C. (3d) 480, shows that there are limits to body contacts in any sport and that such contact may increase the chances of causing injury to another player. Reckless behavior that can result in injury to another player is another ground for this case and it is in accordance with section 18 and 20 of the 1861/ the tackle by Mr. Brown was intentional and malicious. This is because he had an agenda in his mind that was to take the possession of the ball currently in possession by Christopher Bygraves.
The obiter dicta of this case is the statement made by the Judge claiming that the defense had to prove that the action that resulted in the lump was a legitimate one when considered that the result of the action was an injury to another player. The judge also in his reply to the jury points out that the prosecution has to prove that the act was deliberate in the sense that Mr. Brown had the malicious intention when tackling the respondent in a legitimate game where both parties gave their consent indirectly to the consequences of the game. He goes further to say that the two-footed lunge from behind could be an intentional and reckless act for any player. His description on the position of the defense and the prosecution form part of the obiter dictum because it does form any part of his judgment. The statements he made was just a clarification to the jury who wanted to know why he came up with the decision how justifiable the decision was in terms of the legitimacy of tackles in football and in the laws.
The decision of the appeal case of R v. Barnes can be further appealed on the grounds that the actions of Mr. Brown were not malicious. The court of appeal when making its ruling did not put into sufficient consideration the fact that football is a game where the players have many bodily contacts and the tackles are a normal thing in the pitch. The appellants will have to prove beyond reasonable doubts that the act of tackling Mr. Christopher was neither intentional nor malicious. This is because the conclusion was based on the fact that the appellant caused body injuries to the respondents does not give a clear definition of legitimate sport and they can use this to question the decision of the court. The court referred to the case of the male who had sex with two women yet he was HIV positive. In his case if, he did it intentionally then he was liable to answer for intentional infection and in this case, the appellant claims that it was not intentional and needs to prove that he was not aware that the tackle wound cause harm to the respondent.
Guidance on contact sports
There are many controversies regarding how legitimate some actions are in the field. A player may suffer from injuries caused by another player in the heat of the game and this may not be seen as a criminal offense because the rules of the game allow such an act. However, there are cases where the players suffer major bodily injuries and as a result, decide to seek criminal justice against that player. This puts the court in a difficult position as it tries to establish whether the injury was intentional or not. The different sports have different rules guiding the amount of bodily contact among the players. The appellant claims that the tackle was not intentional and that it is something allowed by the rules of football, but one cannot overlook the harm it caused to the respondent. The question, therefore, lies on how the courts can clarify the amount of force or bodily contact the players maintain during any sport.
The extent of the damage plays a key role in determining whether the injury deserves criminal charges and if not then the player may decide to take civic action on the grounds that the injuries were not intentional. However, the key points, in this case, is whether or not the force used in contact sports means to cause intentional harm to the other player. It is good to note also that some sports as boxing consists of many body contacts and the players intend to harm each other though not in the literal sense. At the end of the game many players suffer from injuries and other have even died in the pitch. This poses the question as to whether the harm inflicted upon a player, in this case, is a criminal offense or is it one of the expected outcomes of the game. The acts of 1861 sections 18,20 and 47 states clearly that nay bodily harm or injury to a person is unlawful and if a person dies in the event then that becomes a criminal case. However, it is also good to note that there are rules governing these games and in one way or the other, the players give their consent on any injury inflicted on them while playing. This does not justify the injuries the player suffers from because the law also states that the general rule of exception does not apply to consent that results in injury.
The law needs to be more specific and give guidance on how to differentiate legitimacy of any sport and the criminal offenses committed in the field. In the case of football, for example, a player may have agreed to play, but he or she does not foresee any injury or harm befalling him because unlike boxing football does not come with the intention of injuring each other. Football is the same as hockey, in the fact that the main target is not the player, but the ball and even though there is a high body contact, the players need to make sure that their play does not cause any injury to other players. These games have a high level of body contact but do not come with a guaranteed risk of injury. This is different from boxing where the players know the high risks of being injured during the sport and even intend to harm each other. This means that laws need to clarify the level of risks involved in each game because one cannot summarize all body contact sports in the same category when coming up with procedures to determine whether injuries are criminal offenses or not.
The case criminal offenses committed in any sport can be evident in the amount of injury inflicted and the risks involved in the game. This means that players in a football pitch expect to get an injury at some point, but this does not mean that they anticipate high-risk injuries like a broken leg. This does not mean that players give consent to deliberate injuries caused by intentional kicks and punches, which are liable to assault charges and compensation according to the law. This is according to Law CommissionConsultation Paper No. 134(10.12) and section (10.18), which protects players by providing that unreasonable body contact the results in injury, should be criminal. The mood of the player is another aspect to take into consideration when determining whether an action is a criminal offense or not. This is because some players inflict harm on others when they are angry and this can be a criminal offense while others cause injury unintentionally.