Sports versus Assault

The line where an injury resulting from a sport can actually classify as an assault or a negligent action can be vague. These of course must be in breach of the rules but must also be outside of what is deemed reasonable outside of the rules. This is because when you decide to play the game you are voluntarily assuming a certain amount of risk. As such, this means the standard changes from game to game and from situation to situation.

For instance, two jockeys were found guilty of careless riding and received a 3 day ban where they cut off another jockey causing his horse to swerve off course and him to fall, breaking his back and ending his career. However, their conduct was not negligent. The court set out a standard to determine whether an injury was in fact caused negligently. First, each player owes a duty of care to the others, which must be objectively reasonable to avoid inflicting injury. However, the circumstances rest on the game itself including its objectives, demand on the players, skill level, standards and decisions that are reasonably expected. A lapse in judgement is not sufficient and there should be proof that the act was reckless to the other player’s safety.

Similarly, where a player used a two-foot tackle in a football match and was charged with unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on the victim, it was overturned as he maintained it was a fair sliding tackle and the Court agreed criminal prosecution should only be used where the conduct is sufficiently grave.  As although the act was outside the rules, it could be expected. In contrast where a player is attacked, whether by sticks or otherwise when the game is on break or “off the ball” will constitute criminal action.

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