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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 February, 2004, 19:04 GMT
Ice hockey attacker fined
Generic: Munich Barons vs London Knights
Players are governed by strict rules
A young ice hockey player is believed to be the first in the UK to be convicted of committing a criminal offence during a match.

Robert Brownbill, 19, of Swinton, Greater Manchester was fined for punching an opponent as he lay injured.

But he was cleared at Preston Crown Court of using his hockey stick to knock out rival player Richard Hulme's two front teeth.

The attack happened during an under 19s match in Blackburn.

Fight broke out

Brownbill, a self-employed joiner, attacked 19-year-old Mr Hulme, from Blackpool, during a match between Altrincham Tigers and Blackburn Hawks in October 2002.

All I could see was the injured player curled up, protecting himself on the ice and the other player standing up punching him
Match referee, Tony Scialdone
Mr Hulme's Blackburn side were winning 11-3 at the time.

The game had entered its final minutes when a fight - not involving the defendant or Mr Hulme - broke out on the ice.

Match referee Tony Scialdone, of the English Ice Hockey Association, told the court he did not see what started the incident involving Brownbill because of this first altercation.

He said: "After the two original fighters were separated, I then saw Brownbill punching another player on the ice.

"All I could see was the injured player curled up protecting himself on the ice and the other player standing up punching him.

"He definitely punched him more than once to the back of the head and the head area."

Against the rules

The jury cleared Brownbill of hitting Mr Hulme, who lost two front teeth, with his hockey stick, but found him guilty of punching Mr Hulme while he was lying on the ice.

Brownbill was given a 250 fine and ordered to pay 250 costs.

Judge Christopher Cornwall told Brownbill: "This case, I hope, will make it abundantly clear that it is not only against the rules of ice hockey to strike a player when he is down on the ice, but is contrary to criminal law.

"You are now guilty of a criminal offence."

Neville Moralee, a director of the English Ice Hockey Association said: "In any sport, there are players who go beyond what is allowed by the rules and they are sanctioned for it."

He said the Brownbill would now face disciplinary action and the possiblity of suspension by the sport's disciplinary committee.

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