Stage 1: The Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committee assesses the seriousness of the Foul Play (low-end, mid-range, top-end) by reference to the following factors (see Regulation 17.18.1):
- gravity of the actions;
- nature of the actions, the manner in which the offence was committed including part of body used (for example, fist, elbow, knee or boot);
- existence of provocation;
- whether the player acted in retaliation and the timing of such;
- whether the player acted in self-defence (that is whether he/she used a reasonable degree of force in defending him/herself);
- effect on the victim (for example, extent of injury, removal of victim from the game);
- effect of the actions on the match;
- vulnerability of the victim including part of victim’s body involved/affected, position of the victim, ability to defend him/herself;
- level of participation in the offending and level of premeditation;
- whether the conduct was completed or amounted to an attempt; and
- any other feature of the conduct in relation to or connected with the offending.
As you will appreciate it is a sequential exercise, considering the facts of every case against the checklist above.
With the Law number and category of conduct (e.g., high tackle, stiff arm tackle, etc.) the entry point will then be identified in the sanctions table. For example, for a “tip tackle” (Law 10.4(j)) the mid-range entry point is 10 weeks. The sanctions table is attached as Appendix 3. This entry point is the starting sanction (in number of weeks) which can be increased and/or decreased at Stages 2 and 3 to arrive at the final sanction. You will see in the sanction table that for a number of different categories of Foul Play where the victim player’s head is involved the action must be classified as either mid-range or top-end depending on the particular offence.
Stage 1 is the only stage of the process where the incident itself is reviewed and assessed. The next two stages look at external factors relating to the player him/herself to increase or decrease the sanction from the entry point.
Stage 2: The Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committee will increase the sanction above the entry point if any of the following aggravating factors are present (note: these relate to factors other than the act of foul play itself (see Regulation 17.19.1)):
- the player’s status generally as an offender of the Laws of the Game (looking at his/her disciplinary record in rugby and other sports (e.g., rugby league) since the age of 18 years);
- need for a deterrent to combat a pattern of offending in the Game (e.g., there have been a series of sanctions for “tip tackles” recently and it is necessary to get the message through to change tackling techniques to protect player welfare); and
- any other off-field aggravating factor(s) that the Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committee considers relevant and appropriate.
If there are aggravating factors the sanction increases above the entry point. By way of example (only), for a mid-range “tip tackle” (entry point: 10 weeks) there could be an increase of, say, two weeks if the player has a poor disciplinary record, increasing the sanction to 12 weeks.
Stage 3: The Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committee will decrease the sanction taking into account the mitigating factors of the player’s case as follows (note: again, these relate to factors rather than the act of foul play itself (see Regulation 17.20)):
- presence and timing of an acknowledgement of culpability/wrong-doing by the player (e.g., did the player “plead guilty” and was this immediate or at a later stage?);
- clean disciplinary record and/or good character;
- youth and inexperience of the player;
- conduct prior to and at the hearing (e.g., the player is respectful towards the Judicial Officer/ Disciplinary Committee and facilitates the process — if he/she does not he/she cannot get full mitigation);
- demonstrated remorse for his/her conduct to the victim including the timing of such remorse (e.g., an apology on the field carries more weight than a letter written by the player’s lawyer apologising after he/she has been cited); and
- any other off-field mitigating factor(s) that the Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committee considers relevant and appropriate.
The reduction is calculated as a percentage starting at 0% up to a maximum 50% based on an assessment of the factors above (e.g., a young player with a previous suspension but who “pleaded guilty” immediately, apologised to his/her opponent on the field and behaved appropriately at the hearing may merit a 40% reduction for mitigation – please note this is just an example). That percentage is then deducted from the entry point (not the adjusted sanction following any increase for aggravation). This means that in the midrange “tip tackle” example which was increased from the 10-week entry point to 12 weeks for aggravation, a 40% reduction for mitigation would be a reduction of four weeks (i.e., 40% of 10 weeks is 4 weeks). The four weeks is deducted from the twelve weeks (the sanction after stage 2 aggravation) to give a final sanction of eight weeks. If the player did not have any aggravating factors then his/her final sanction would be six weeks (i.e., 10-4). Any fractions of weeks following this process are rounded down to the benefit of the player.
There is one exception to give the Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committees flexibility to deal appropriately with low-end cases. Where, having taken into account the mitigating factors, the Judicial Officer/ Disciplinary Committee considers the sanction which would be reached having followed the above process in a low-end case would be wholly disproportionate to the level and type of offending involved, the Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committee may reduce the sanction by more than 50% down to no sanction in appropriate cases. Note, this provision applies only in cases of a low-end entry point (see Regulation 17.20.3).
Stage 4: The final stage is for the Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committee to set out when the sanction ends.
The sanction must start immediately but must also apply when the player would have been scheduled to play in meaningful matches on each week during that time period. This means that a four-week sanction may last longer than four calendar weeks in order to cover four match weeks. For this purpose all matches are equal (this is a core principle of the Regulations decided by World Rugby Council) provided they are legitimate, meaningful matches of rugby the player would otherwise have played in. There is no difference for this purpose between the Rugby World Cup final and a scheduled pre-season club game, provided the player would have played and that pre-season match is a meaningful match for the purposes of the Regulations. This can become complicated during “rest/bye” weeks, where the player is injured, at the end of tours, where there is doubt as to the standard of the game (e.g., some 'friendlies') or where at the date of the hearing it is unclear if a team will progress to the playoffs of a competition (and those matches would count towards the sanction). Sometimes Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committees will need to examine the player’s schedule during the hearing or ask for additional evidence to be filed to prove the player would have played (see Regulation 17.21.2 and 17.21.3).
There are no fines imposed.