A football coach who pleaded guilty to assaulting an assistant referee during a match was sentenced on Monday in Summary Court.
Magistrate Valdis Foldats imposed a sentence that included 40 hours of community service, compensation to the victim of $126.82 and a discharge on condition of entering a recognizance in the sum of $950 to be of good behavior.
The magistrate agreed to defense attorney Richard Barton’s application for no conviction to be recorded, but added, “This case should not be used as a precedent.”
The incident leading to the assault occurred at the Ed Bush Stadium in West Bay on April 8 during a cup match between the coach’s team, Alliance FC, and Elite FC.
The defendant first appeared in court in August and pleaded guilty after documents in the case were disclosed to Mr. Barton. Sentencing was adjourned so that a victim impact statement could be obtained along with a social inquiry report for the defendant.
Crown counsel Scott Wainwright outlined aspects of the case.
The game official reported to police that he had been punched in his face by the coach. The injury he sustained was described as a small cut on the inner upper left side of his lip and swelling on the left side of the lip.
The defendant pleaded guilty to a charge of common assault on the basis that he was pushed by the official and responded by slapping the other man in the face. He accepted that his action did not amount to self-defense, since it was an excessive response to a push. That basis of plea was accepted by the Crown.
Mr. Barton said a situation in the game developed to a point when all of the players had come down onto the field against the main referee and the coach went out with the intention of having cooler heads prevail. He was going to ask for the game to be called off, but things escalated quickly. He regretted what had happened.
The magistrate read from the victim impact report. The injured man said he did not want the defendant in prison. He recognized that the coach had been banned for a year from all football activities. He wanted a public apology to himself and the refereeing body. He requested compensation for the amount of medical expenses that his insurance did not cover.
The magistrate pointed out that the courtroom is a public forum and the defendant had the opportunity to apologize then and there. When Mr. Barton turned to speak to his client, the magistrate added that a coerced apology was worth nothing.
Mr. Barton indicated that was not the case. He said the coach had undertaken to give a written apology.
The magistrate said he might also want to write to the football league and the body that oversees his team.
“I do apologize,” the defendant said from the dock.
Mr. Barton emphasized that his client, 50, had been coaching for some 20 years and was a founder of the Alliance Football Club, along with being involved in other community service activities.
He was of previous good character, Mr. Wainwright confirmed.
The magistrate thanked the coach for his early guilty plea and for going through the process of the social inquiry report.
Sports are meant to be fun, the magistrate commented, even when things get heated. He thought there had been an increase in violence and disrespect internationally; there had to be a clampdown, he said.
It was a sad state of affairs when there had to be police presence at local sporting events, but that may have been the result of cumulative experience, he suggested.
Cayman’s football referees went on strike in April following the altercation. It was the fifth reported incident during the season involving “physical attacks and discrimination,” against match officials, according to a statement from the Cayman Islands Referee’s Association.
Referees called for a police presence at local games amid concerns for their safety.
Mr. Barton had submitted three letters of reference. The magistrate referred to one from Alfredo Whittaker, who was elected last month as president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, and Mr. Whittaker’s interest in safeguarding referees. The magistrate did not read the letter aloud, but indicated its appreciation for the defendant’s overall contribution to his community.
A second letter was from a West Bay MLA and the third was from another coach.
Mr. Barton added that just recently the defendant’s club had been instrumental in securing a football scholarship for a female player.