Rugby player accused of hollowing out opponent’s eye cleared

A rugby player has been acquitted of hollowing out an opponent’s eye.

Richard Merrett, 39, allegedly assaulted his opponent Matthew Rolls during a rugby match on December 1, 2018.

Mr Merrett, who plays for Wales-based rugby union team Penarth RFC, was charged with wrongfully injuring Mr Rolls, who had screamed in “extreme” pain at the defendant’s “full hold” on his left eye before taking eight stitches. heard, Cardiff Crown Court.

However, Wales Online reports that the jury unanimously reached a not guilty verdict on January 19 after approximately two hours of deliberation. Mr Merrett showed little emotion when the verdict was handed down.

The trial opened on January 18 with evidence from Mr Merrett, Mr Rolls and the match referee Neil Pruett, as well as Cefn Coed coach Damien Regis and the team’s full defender Chris Evans.

Prosecutor Tom Roberts alleged that Mr Merrett “forced his fingers into the eye sockets” of Mr Rolls during a ruck in which players competed on the ground for the ball. Mr Rolls was taken to hospital and had to be stitched to his left eyelid.

Mr Merrett denied having reached out to Mr Rolls. He said he had beaten Cefn Coed’s second row twice but claimed it was in self-defense after he was allegedly beaten twice by Mr Rolls.

Mr Roberts began his closing speech by acknowledging “discrepancies” in the evidence of Mr Regis, Mr Evans and Mr Rolls. He told the jury: “Chris Evans said both of Mr Merrett’s hands were on Matthew Rolls’ face. Mr Rolls said the defendant had used his left hand, while Mr Regis said he had used his right.”

The prosecutor admitted that “details may have been lost” in more than three years since the incident, but “the overall picture of the gouge remains”. He added, “If they had made up a story together, you wouldn’t see the discrepancies between their stories.”



Richard Merrett on trial for unlawful injury

Roberts said witnesses heard Mr Rolls yell during the incident, “Get him off me, he’s got my eye.” Merrett claimed he told Cefn Coed’s coach after the violence, “If your player hits me, I’ll hit him back.”

Mr Roberts described this as a “self-contradictory statement”, adding: “He was beaten, if you are to believe him, before the ruck collapsed and before he landed on the ground. There was no self-defense punch then, was there, even under his own account?

“So did that first punch from Matthew Rolls happen? The referee was there. He didn’t see the hit, did he? It just didn’t happen. Mr. Merrett made that up and lied to you about what happened to justify what happened. next one.

“On the second punch that Mr. Merrett accused Mr. Rolls of throwing, think of their relative positions. Who has a strong position – the person on the ground or the person on his way to get up? Think of Mr. Rolls standing on laying on the ground trying to pack a punch… He was definitely in the most vulnerable position he could have been to do it It makes no sense.

“It’s not a statement to be believed, I suggest. Defendant wasn’t beaten at all by Matthew Rolls. He knows he can’t justify a gouge, so he says he struck a punch in self-defense, which he says “possibly.” “Explain the injury to Mr. Rolls’ eye. It is not corroborated by any other evidence you have heard.”

Kevin Seal, who defended Mr Merrett, said it was plausible that Mr Rolls’ injury was caused by a punch rather than a gouge. He gave the example of similar boxing injuries.

He added: “If there is a grip on the face you might have expected some fingernail marks where it was gripped tightly but there is no evidence of that.

“The prosecution says to you, ‘Why would these people lie three years later?’ Well unfortunately it’s a fact of life People tell lies If people didn’t tell lies there wouldn’t be a need for a court and you wouldn’t have to spend time sitting as jurors.

“If you say ‘This happened to me’, how do you change your mind later? You told the referee, who reported it to the Welsh Rugby Union. You can’t turn around and say, ‘I was wrong about this’ because where would that leave you?

“Mr. Evans says when Mr. Merrett gets up he is hitting ‘everyone and everyone’ and yet it is not seen by the referee. You might think he could identify the main instigator who is trying to beat everyone.”

Mr Seal also responded to the prosecution’s claim that Mr Merrett’s story “contradicts itself”. He said his client had been punched because Mr Rolls’ second alleged blow had been a “cheap shot” in the back of the head.

“At that point, Mr. Rolls would have already been on his way from the ground – of course he could have punched Mr. Merrett,” added Seal.

The attorney pointed out that Mr Rolls and Mr Evans had claimed not to remember the referee speaking to either team captains about off-the-ball confrontations, despite Mr Pruett confirming this in his evidence. “If they’re willing to lie about that, what else are they willing to lie about?” Mr. Seal asked the jury.

Mr Merrett, who denied the charges, was acquitted.

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