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Sport Violence | Billy Slater and the Bite

By 12 April 2013General Law, Sports Law

Make no mistake about it, biting is an incredibly serious offence. More so these days with a run of dangerous illnesses one can acquire through the mix of blood and saliva.

Only a few days ago, a guy in Brisbane was charged with grievous bodily harm (GBH) which resulted in the victim losing part of his ear. A GBH charge can result in serious time in custody.

So, what about James Cameron, who allegedly bit Billy Slater’s ear during a brawl in the NRL Grand Final? Can he be charged with a criminal offence?

This question has long plagued many who believe that bad behaviour on the sporting field should be subject to the laws outside the game as well.

There have been plenty of cases internationally where the question has been posed. The most topical of which was in the United States, where a hockey player jumped on another and pulverised him with punches, as well as a hockey stick. The matter ended up before a US court and it eventuated in a mistrial, of which the defence council’s summing up of  the sport of hockey as being the culprit as opposed to the defendant seemed to take hold of judicial opinion.

Closer to home though, a recent decision in the Ipswich District Court has challenged the status quo. The police charged a 21 year old rugby league player for king-hitting another player and while both the prosecution and defence couldn’t locate any real precedents or previous similar cases in an Australian context, the Court ultimately found the defendant guilty of GBH and sentenced him to 18 months imprisonment. In doing so, the Court pressed the point that it was irrelevant that the behaviour happened on a football field.

In the case of James Graham and Billy Slater, it looks as if it’s going nowhere. In response to the alleged biting, captain of Melbourne Storm, Cameron Smith was fairly nonchalant about it, which probably is the fundamental reason why these types of matters are not pursued.

That said, no matter what your sport, don’t think for a minute that the laws don’t apply as soon as you run on a field. In the case of James Cameron, had Slater pressed charges, Cameron if found guilty may have found himself in a whole world of pain.

Listen above to our interview with leading criminal lawyer, Michael Bosscher