Eye Gouging: Dupuy’s sentencing could be a watershed moment

As Julien Dupuy’s eye-gouging ban is reduced, Andrew Daniel assesses the importance of sentences that fit the crime.

Today saw the end of Julien Dupuy’s appeal against a six-month ban for eye gouging.  Dupuy was cited and proven guilty for twice making contact with the eyes of Stephen Ferris, the Ulster back row, in a Heineken cup game back in December.  The Stade Francais and France scrumhalf has had his ban shortened by just one week for the offence.  The independent panel labelled the punishment “at the top end in the level of seriousness for an offence of this type”.  Also in the dock is David Attoub, Dupuy’s team mate, who is also accused of the same offence in the same game on the same player.  His sentence will be handed out tomorrow.

The ruling in this case could be a huge moment in the history of disciplinary action within the game.  With the sentence essentially being upheld and Dupuy being forced to serve his ban, a serious message has been sent out to the rugby playing community at all levels of the game.

Judge Jeff Blackett, who presided over the original hearing, stated that Dupuy should be made an example of, hence the severity of the punishment handed to the Frenchman.  Blackett was the same man that meted out a 26-week ban on Dylan Hartley, the now England Hooker back in 2007, a punishment that should have set a precedent that was to be followed.  Unfortunately, this has not been the case and notable examples of this are Schalk Burger on Luke Fiztgerald (South Arica v British Lions – 8 weeks), and Alan Quinlan on Leo Cullen (Munster v Leinster – 12 weeks) last year, that have proven that what is regarded by some as the most heinous crime in the sport is not being treated with the severity that it deserves.

Let me quickly explain what can actually happen to the eye during this act.  A less severe case can lead to scratching of the eye area, eye lid or even the eye ball itself which can cause abrasions, blurred vision or bleeding in the middle of the eye.  In a severe case the retina can detach whilst any damage to the optical nerve can cause blindness.  I imagine that you are wincing slightly whilst you are reading this.  Is potentially losing sight worth an eight week ban for the perpetrator?  I’m not so sure.

As citings and convictions continue to rise, a statutory punishment needs to be set to act as a deterrent to the players.  For the good of the game the ruling against Dupuy needs to now be the standard and that, if he is found guilty, should be bestowed upon Attoub.  This is not a personal attack on Dupuy or Attoub but this case has led to the situation coming to a much publicised head.
I personally think that six months is not enough and the ban should be a year at least, with a two year international ban.  Taking away what the players strive for the most, representing their country, for an extended period of time would surely make any player think twice about committing such an offence. 

This could be a case that’s outcome will be remembered for years to come.  Let’s just hope it’s remembered for the right reasons and justice for future transgressors prevails.

3 thoughts on “Eye Gouging: Dupuy’s sentencing could be a watershed moment

  1. Andrew, I couldn’t agree more – weak punishments over the summer have seemingly lessened the seriousness of the offence, and at the same time ignited fury amongst a large number of supporters. In my opinion, gouging is the worst offence in the game – other offences can cause serious and potentially permanent injury, but losing eyesight is surely the most debilitating and life-affecting outcome possible.

    Dylan Hartley was rightly made an example of, and offences of this type seemeed to fade away. Now, maybe because of increased press, but more likely because of a lack of firm deterrent, players are using the cowardly approach in more instances. I still think the seriousness of the offence needs to be fully appreciated by those in power – the coaches and managers – as recent comments show a varied stance across the rugby playing nations. However, bans such as that to Dupuy can only be a good thing and will hopefully help to rid this danger from our game.

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