Kingussie Shinty Club has released its full statement today after their player Fraser Munro was cleared of an onfield assault on an opponent.
Mr Munro had maintained his innocence through-out and has been supported by the club.
The Dell club have said that if their player had been found guilty for what they said was an 'innocuous' incident there would have been major ramifications for the future of contact sports in Scotland.
Here is the Red and Blues' statement in full:
Media release from Kingussie Camanachd Club
On Saturday 14th May 2016 Kingussie played Lochaber at Spean Bridge in the semi - final of the Mactavish Cup.
Around 15 minutes in to the match, with the score at 0 – 0, referee Evan Macrae sent off Kingussie left wing centre Fraser Munro following a collision between him and Lochaber's Jack Dignan.
The Lochaber player suffered a serious eye injury as a result of the collision. Evan Macrae’s opinion was that Fraser had deliberately inflicted Dignan's injury and following the match he sent a special report to the Camanachd Association along with his match report.
Under CA rules if a referee issues a special report then a meeting of the Disciplinary Committee is called to decide if the player who was red carded should receive any additional match suspensions to the automatic two match suspension that a red card triggers.
The Disciplinary Committee met in Fort William on the 2nd of June 2016. They concluded that Fraser had not deliberately inflicted the injury but had, in their opinion, been reckless in his actions and handed out a further three match suspension.
Two days after the match took place, on Monday 16th May, the Lochaber club chairman emailed the CA to list Dignan's injuries and the procedures he had undergone in hospital in Fort William and Glasgow and also asked them to ‘keep us informed of what actions are available to the CA to deal with this matter and what appropriate action you propose to take in taking into account the severity of the injury and the result of the offending players actions’ (a direct quote).
He went on to say that the Lochaber club had video footage of the incident that they would hand over to the CA. At this time members of the Lochaber club gave interviews to shinty journalists about the incident and some pretty unsavoury posts appeared on social media.
Kingussie and Fraser Munro declined to comment.
One day before the disciplinary hearing the CA sent out all the paperwork that was to be considered. Surprisingly this included photographs and written descriptions of Dignan's injury.
Perhaps more surprisingly also included was an email from Dignan's mother dated 31st May that read 'I think we are all aware of the seriousness of this incident with the hope that the camanachd can deal with it appropriately without it leaving the control of the association' (a direct quote).
The Lochaber chairman’s email of the 16th of May was also in this package. Kingussie immediately contacted the CA to complain about the inclusion of these documents.
The severity or otherwise of the injury was irrelevant to the disciplinary committee, their job was to decide if there was malicious intent when the collision took place.
Why Dignan's mother would be permitted to submit a letter is still not clear to us. After our complaint the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee decided that these documents were to be disregarded but the committee had all received, and one assumes, seen them.
We also asked to see the video if it was to be used but we were told that because it was such poor quality it would not be used.
On August 26th 2016 Fraser Munro was asked to attend Aviemore Police Station where a member of Fort William C.I.D. charged him with the serious assault of Jack Dignan during a shinty match on the 14th of May 2016.
Fraser’s first court appearance was in January 2017 when he pleaded not guilty and had a bail order and conditions placed upon him.
The case came to court at Fort William Sheriff Court on Monday 6th November 2017 where Fraser stood trial for what was now an assault charge, he was defended by former GlenUrquhart and Glasgow Mid Argyll shinty player David Bell.
The trial lasted two days and finished on the 8th of December when Fraser was found not guilty.
Central to the trial was the Lochaber video which was used extensively by both prosecution and defence. It is strange that this video was not deemed good enough quality to be used at a CA disciplinary hearing and yet was okay to be used in a court of law.
(KCC feel that if the Disciplinary Committee had viewed the video they would not have given Fraser the extended suspension).
Nobody from Kingussie had seen the video until September 2016 when the club requested a copy from the CA after Fraser was charged.
As Mr Bell pointed out in court the account given by Fraser Munro in his written submission to the CA disciplinary committee on 25.5.16 was consistent with what was shown on the video, notwithstanding that he had provided that written account over three months prior to seeing the video for the first time.
Other eye witness accounts were not as consistent with this footage.
As can be seen in the video Lochaber were defending a free hit just to the left of the penalty spot at their goals.
Kingussie's Rory McGregor was about to take the free hit and Fraser Munro starts to make a run from behind him, initially feigning to his right before sprinting to the left in an effort to get to the space in the left wing forward position to hopefully receive a pass and possibly get a shot at goal.
His marker Jack Dignan was not looking at the ball and was instead facing Fraser's run which he impeded by stepping in to his path and blocking him with an ice hockey style body check.
The result of this collision was the very serious injury that Dignan sustained.
During his final submission to the court Mr Bell said that in shinty terms this was a very ordinary collision that had extraordinary results.
Kingussie Camanachd Club have fully supported Fraser Munro throughout this whole episode as we are in no doubt that he did not intend to injure Dignan.
We would further contend that the correct decision of the referee should have been to award a foul to Kingussie for Dignan's obstruction of our player.
If Dignan had not illegally obstructed Fraser then there is no collision and no injury.
We think the referee made the wrong decision on the day, his special report is confused and bares no relation to what the video shows.
We cannot understand how a shinty player can walk into a police station and ask them to charge a fellow player for such an innocuous incident regardless of the injury.
All of us who play or have played shinty know there is a risk involved every time you walk on to the pitch, as there is in any contact sport.
It is very surprising that the police decided to pursue the case at all especially as Dignan waited to see the outcome of the CA disciplinary hearing before going to them.
This was a criminal prosecution, the Crown tried Fraser Munro in a criminal court for assault so the taxpayer funded this whole exercise. We would ask, was this a good use of police and court time and money?
Part of Fraser’s legal fees were covered by Legal Aid and the Kingussie club will pay the other part.
As we discovered during this process the insurance that all players must take out each season with the CA covers them in the event of a civil action beingbrought against them for an incident on the pitch but the insurance does not cover them for a criminal prosecution.
If this prosecution had been successful it would have had far reaching consequences not only for our sport shinty but for every contact sport in Scotland and this was one of the reasons that there was a fair amount of interest in legal circles in this case.
We feel that certain members of Lochaber Camanachd Club have not acted in the best interests of our sport during this affair and we are disappointed that, in our opinion, they tried to influence the decision of the CA disciplinary hearing and then took the matter to the police.
Kingussie Camanachd Club do not wish to see any shinty player injured on the pitch, however, it happens and we sincerely wish Jack Dignan a good recovery from his injury.
We were pleased to hear that he had returned to playing shinty during the 2017 season.
Fraser Munro has not played shinty since he was charged by the police in 2016.
Our club would like to thank David Bell for his work on this case, his shinty knowledge as well as his court room skill were crucial to Fraser's defence.
We would also like to thank people from all clubs in the shinty community who have supported Fraser during this difficult time.
We are delighted that after nearly 11 months on bail and nearly 16 months under investigation by the authorities Fraser can finally put this behind him now and enjoy Christmas with his family.
We hope we will see him in a Red and Blue jersey representing Kingussie again next season.
The video of the incident is available on Kingussie Camanachd Club Facebook page.