Lecturer pays €100,000 over assault


A SENIOR university lecturer who broke a man’s leg during a six-a-side soccer match has avoided a prison sentence after paying €100,000 in compensation.

Frédéric Royall (53), of Mountshannon Road, Lisnagry, Co Limerick, pleaded guilty at Limerick Circuit Court to assaulting Hooman Reyhani (44) causing him harm at the University of Limerick sports complex on August 3rd, 2007.

At the sentencing hearing yesterday, Judge Carroll Moran said there was no question of sending the UL senior lecturer in French to prison given his previous good character and because of the amount of compensation he had paid out of his own pocket.

Judge Moran accepted, however, that Mr Reyhani was treated “disgracefully in the off-the-ball situation”, in which he was punched in the face and knocked to the ground, resulting in a serious leg injury. He described the behaviour as “quite unacceptable, especially for someone with an academic background”.

Previously the court heard Mr Reyhani, who has a PhD in electronic engineering from UL, broke his leg in two places and has undergone several operations since he was assaulted by Mr Royall on the AstroTurf playing pitch.

Mr Reyhani, an Irish national with an Iranian background, continues to wear an ankle brace and says he can no longer participate in sporting activities he previously enjoyed because of the injury.

During yesterday’s proceedings, Mark Nicholas, defending, said his client “utterly regretted” the incident, which occurred during a friendly soccer game that had been run annually between academics for 20 years. He said the punch from Mr Royall was delivered in a “heat of the moment” dispute over a foul, and acknowledged it had “dreadful consequences” for Mr Reyhani, a self-employed engineer.

Mr Nicholas said his client has always rejected claims by the injured party that Mr Royall also kicked him.

The court heard the French lecturer was “utterly appalled” by what he had done and that he had expressed immediate regret and remorse afterwards, and had pleaded guilty from the outset.

Mr Nicholas claimed the case had attracted a “disproportionate” amount of media attention, which he said added another layer of embarrassment for his client.

Judge Moran said when the case had initially come before him an offer of €10,000 in compensation was made, which in his view was not enough, so he adjourned sentencing to await the outcome of High Court proceedings.

He accepted Mr Reyhani was annoyed at the length of time it took to finalise matters, but said there was a good reason for the delay. The judge said because Mr Royall had no previous convictions and because of the €100,000 he had paid in compensation, he would have to give him the benefit of the Probation Act. He bound Mr Royall to the peace for three years.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Reyhani criticised the fact Mr Royall was not given a suspended prison sentence. The married father of one said his legal fees were about €45,000 and his medical bills, which he described as “ongoing”, already amounted to €30,000.

“For us this case has never been about money. For my wife and I this case is simply about the defendant unreservedly admitting to the crime, him properly apologising to me and my family for what he has put me through, and having justice served according to the law,” he said.

Mr Reyhani said he used to be a very active person. “I used to cycle, ski and climb mountains all over the world. Now I am housebound. I have difficulties walking our wonderful son to the nearby park; I also have difficulties driving my car,” he said.