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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 December, 2004, 15:23 GMT
Football foul conviction quashed
An amateur footballer who was convicted of grievous bodily harm after a rival player's leg was broken during a tackle has had his conviction quashed.

The case arose after Mr Barnes, 38, of Margate, Kent, fouled Christopher Bygraves in the Thanet and District Sunday League game in December 2002.

Mr Barnes was convicted in October 2003 and given 240 hours community service.

But at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, ruled the conviction was "unsafe".

During Mr Barnes' trial at Canterbury Crown Court the prosecution said the injury was the result of a "crushing tackle, which was late, unnecessary, reckless and high up the legs".

'Sufficiently grave'

Mr Barnes, who played for the Punch Judy team was sent off by the referee for the tackle, but later told the court it was "a fair, if hard" challenge.

But he was found guilty and ordered to pay Mr Bygraves, who played for Minster FC, 2,609.

However, ruling the conviction unsafe, Lord Woolf said: "The issue which this appeal raises is an important one.

"It goes to the heart of the question of when it is appropriate for criminal proceedings to be instituted after an injury is caused to one player by another player in the course of a sporting event, such as a football match."

'Necessary threshold'

He said a criminal prosecution should be reserved for "those situations where the conduct is sufficiently grave to be properly categorised as criminal".

Lord Woolf sitting with Mr Justice Cresswell and Mr Justice Simon ruled the judge's summing up in Mr Barnes' trial had been inadequate and therefore the conviction was unsafe.

"It should have been pointed out to the jury that even if the offending contact was a foul, it was still necessary for them to determine whether it could be anticipated in a normal game of football," Lord Woolf added.

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