Hitchin rugby player escapes jail after injuring opponent

A RUGBY player who fractured an opponent’s jaw so badly that he required two lots of surgery has escaped jail.

Hitchin Rugby Club player Jonathan Harrison, 44, of Frensham Drive, Hitchin, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months on Wednesday at Wood Green Crown Court. He had been found guilty there on March 23 of causing grievous bodily harm.

The court had heard how Harrison was playing for Hitchin in a rugby match against Harpenden at Barnet Rugby Club last April.

Shortly before half time, a ruck was formed at the Hitchin 22 yards line. Immediately after the ball came out of the ruck, the victim - a 38-year-old player in the Harpenden team - received a single punch to his jaw. He later told police he heard his jaw breaking after the blow.

The victim was taken to hospital, where it emerged there were two fractures to his jaw. He underwent surgery to have it pinned in place, and later had to have a second operation as one of the fractures was not mending properly.

Harrison was traced by police and arrested. He told them that, at the time of the incident, his shirt was being held by the victim after the ball had passed out of the ruck and that he told the victim to release him. When this did not happen, Harrison claimed that he had swung his arm up and backwards to break the grip, and that any resulting injury was accidental.

However, he was convicted following a trial at the court.

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As well as the suspended sentence, Harrison was handed 150 hours unpaid work, and told to pay �2,500 compensation to the victim and costs of �1,500.

He is also not allowed to play or coach competitive rugby for two years.

Dc Matthew Bennett from the Met Police said after the sentencing: “This sort of assault has no place in sport and this case sends a clear message that those who take the physical aspect of a game too far will face the sanction of the court.”