The Saracens wing, Chris Ashton, has been suspended for 10 weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in London today (Wednesday, 20 January 2016).
Ashton was cited by the match Citing Commissioner, Yves Thieffine (France), for allegedly making contact with the eye(s) and/or eye area of the Ulster Rugby centre, Luke Marshall (No 13), in the 16th minute of the European Rugby Champions Cup Round 5 match at Allianz Park in contravention of Law 10.4 (m).
Law 10.4 (m) Contact with the eye(s) and/or eye area
Under World Rugby's Sanctions for Foul Play, Law 10.4 (m), Contact with the eye(s) and/or eye area carries the following sanction entry points – Low End: 12 weeks; Mid-Range: 18 weeks; Top End: 24 to 208 weeks.
The independent Judicial Officer, Jean-Noel Couraud (France), heard evidence and submissions from Ashton, who pleaded not guilty to the offence, from the Saracens Team Manager, JP O'Reilly, from the Saracens legal representative, Chris Smith, and from the EPCR Disciplinary Officer, Liam McTiernan.
In upholding the citing complaint, the Judicial Officer found that Ashton had committed an act of foul play that warranted a red card. He determined that that offence was at the low end of World Rugby's sanctions and selected 12 weeks as the appropriate entry point.
He added one week as a deterrent according to World Rugby's memorandum regarding offences of this nature, before reducing the sanction by three weeks due to Ashton's good character and good conduct at the hearing. He then imposed a suspension of 10 weeks.
Ashton is free to play on Monday, 28 March 2016. Both the player and EPCR have the right to appeal the decision.
(i) Citing Commissioner
a) Citing Commissioners are appointed by EPCR for all European Rugby Champions Cup and all televised Challenge Cup matches and shall be entitled to cite a player for any act or acts of Foul Play that in the Citing Commissioner's opinion warranted a red card.
b) For such matches, clubs will not have the power to cite a player but may refer incidents to the Citing Commissioner within 26 hours of the start of the match.
c) The Citing Commissioner will have 50 hours from the start of the match to make a citing. In certain circumstances this deadline can be extended.
d) The tournament Disciplinary Officer may forward the submitted citing to a Citing Officer to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for the citing to progress.
e) The Disciplinary Officer will then bring a charge against the cited player.
(ii) Disciplinary Hearing
a) The independent Judicial Officer is chosen by the chairman of the independent Disciplinary Panel, Professor Lorne Crerar.
b) The tournament Disciplinary Officer presents the case against the player.
c) If a citing complaint is upheld, the independent Judicial Officer will be required to consider the appropriate sanction. Under World Rugby's sanctioning regime, which EPCR is obliged to follow, the Judicial Officer will first assess the seriousness of the player's actions and determine which of the three stipulated entry points (lower end, mid range and top end) is the most appropriate.
d) The Judicial Officer will determine the appropriate entry point based on his/her assessment of a number of particular characteristics of the player's actions, including whether or not they were intentional, whether or not they caused any injuries and whether or not they had any effect on the relevant match.
e) After deciding the entry point, the Judicial Officer will then consider whether the suspension should be increased from the entry point to take account of certain specified aggravating factors, such as a poor disciplinary record or the need for deterrence, and/or decreased from the entry point to take account of certain specified mitigating actions, such as a guilty plea, a good disciplinary record, the player's conduct at the hearing and expressions of remorse.
f) A suspension is a blanket ban from playing rugby union anywhere in the world.
g) Both parties to the hearing (EPCR and the player) have the right to appeal decisions of the independent Disciplinary Hearing. Appeals must be lodged within three (3) working days of receiving the full written decision of the Judicial Officer.
h) The full written decision of the Judicial Officer will be available on www.epcrugby.com/disciplinenews when the disciplinary process is complete
i) For World Rugby's Sanctions for Foul Play, found at Appendix 1 to World Rugby Regulation 17, please go to www.worldrugby.org