Waratahs duo Latu and Skelton lose ban appeal

Waratahs hooker Silatolu Latu and lock Will Skelton have failed in their appeal to have their four week and two week bans removed at a SANZAR judicial hearing.

Earlier this week SANZAR Judicial Officer, Robert Stelzner SC, found Silatolu Latu and Will Skelton guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j) and gave them two and four week bans respectively.

The Waratahs appealed the bans but a SANZAR Appeals Committee, chaired by Lex Mpati (South Africa) and comprising Adam Casselden (Australia) and Chris Morris (New Zealand) has unanimously dismissed both appeals.

In Latu’s case the Committee dismissed the appeal on the basis that Latu was unable to persuade its opinion that the sanction was manifestly excessive. Latu’s ground of appeal was that the four-week sanction imposed was not fair in all the circumstances.

The Committee was not persuaded by the submissions of counsel for Latu, Bruce Hodgkinson SC, who referred to other decisions for purposes of comparison. Counsel argued that the addition of two weeks to the low-end entry point of four weeks, applied by the Judicial Officer as a deterrent, was not consistent with the approach adopted in some of those decisions.

The Committee determined that the initial four-week sanction was appropriate. As such, the player remains suspended from all forms of the game for four weeks up to and including Saturday 20 June 2015.

In Skelton’s case the Committee dismissed the appeal on the basis that the appellant was unable to prove that the Judicial Officer’s initial finding was in error, or that the sanction imposed was manifestly excessive.

As to the appeal against the finding of a contravention of Law 10.4 (j), the Committee was not moved by the submissions made on behalf of Skelton by counsel, Bruce Hodgkinson SC, that but for the participation of another player, Silatolu Latu, the tackled player would not have been taken through the horizontal such that his upper body came into contact with the ground first.

As to the sanction imposed, it was argued, amongst others, that the Judicial Officer erred in holding that Skelton was reckless in the execution of the tackle. The Committee found no fault with the Judicial Officer’s finding and determined that the initial two-week sanction was appropriate. As such, the player remains suspended from all forms of the game for two weeks up to and including Saturday 6 June 2015.

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