ORFU Judicial hearings – A Short Guide on what to Expect

Hearings

1. If a Player, school, club or person is called to an ORFU judicial hearing the Judicial
Committee (“the JC”) must follow the procedures set down in the Black Book. This booklet
can be obtained online from the NZ Rugby Union and this guide is brief outline of what to
expect at hearings. A flowchart from the Black Book is also attached.
Principles that the JC must follow:
“The principles of natural justice shall be adhered to in all disciplinary proceedings. Such
principles include, Players cited/Ordered Off shall have the right to know the evidence
against them, shall have the right to be heard, to be represented, to produce evidence and
defend themselves before independent adjudicators.”

2. The hearing is held in private (Rule 52) and the JC determines if other witnesses stay in the
room while evidence is heard. To preserve the integrity and independence of the system
JC members do not sit in circumstances where their club is involved. To avoid any
perception of bias JC members usually declare whether they know the Player or any other
people at the hearing.

3. Red card offences, complaints and issues of misconduct are handled by the JC. This guide
primarily deals with hearings that originate with Red Card offences. The hearings follow a
formal process with modifications (see below) allowed for school pupils. Any person or club
appearing before the JC can have a support person with them. The JC is a three person
committee and hearings are held at Forsyth Barr stadium.

4. With Red card offences the process starts with the referee’s report being assessed by a
designated JC member. The ORFU follows the ‘alternative two-week suspension procedure’
at Rule 18 which means that a Player is automatically stood down for two-weeks unless
there is a hearing. Typically that pre-assessment simply reviews the referee’s report to see
what the lowest possible sanction may be under the Foul Play categorisation (see below).
For instance, Foul Play with a Low End sanction of 6 weeks will almost be called in for a
hearing. In other instances, dissent after Foul Play may require a hearing to clarify any
remorse or apology.

5. At the hearing the Player is asked if they admit the act of Foul Play (rule 62 c). In practical
terms the Player often admits the Foul Play but may question certain aspects of the report or seek
to clarify the circumstances.

6. The JC places significant weight on the conduct of the Player at the hearing including,
where appropriate, honesty, acceptance of fault, remorse and any apologies. (see Rule
87(5)) The start of the hearing for a Player that is ordered off.

7. The JC outlines the process to be followed based on Rule 62 of the Black Book (August
2015).
(a) the Judicial Officer or Chairman of the Judicial Committee will explain the
procedure to be followed;
(b) the report of the referee and, where applicable, the report of the assistant
referees’ will be read.
(c) the Ordered Off Player will be asked to confirm if he admits that he has
committed an act or acts of Foul Play;
(d) evidence from the Ordered Off Player, if he elects to give evidence, and from
any witnesses to be called will be heard;
(e) final submissions will be heard;

8. If the Player denies the offending then an evidential hearing is conducted to determine
whether the Foul Play occurred. Rule 72(2) states that the JC “ … shall not make a finding
contrary to the referee’s decision unless it is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the
referee’s decision was wrong”. If the JC then determines that Foul Play occurred then the next
step is to determine the Starting Point of any sanction (see below). If the JC determines that Foul
Play has not occurred then that is the end of the matter, subject to any appeal.

9. As noted above, the Player may have admitted the offending but wishes to clarify or dispute some
of the facts in the referee’s report. Again these points are determined through the JC hearing
evidence.

10.The Player is asked who will be providing evidence and what types of evidence will be presented.
Please note that if video evidence is being provided then arrangements must be made beforehand.

11. If the Player has admitted the Foul Play then the evidence is used to determine the Starting
Point of any sanction. Evidence can come from people at the hearing, video recordings,
hearsay evidence or statements from people. The JC is permitted to decide how much
weight is placed on different types of evidence and prefers witnesses to be present at the
hearing.

12.Rule 87 (copy attached) provides detailed direction on how to assess the Starting Point.
Section 9 of the Black Book has a list of sanctions for different types of Foul Play and
Section 10 lists sanctions for Misconduct. The sanctions have a scale that directs the JC to
assess the seriousness of the matter and ranges from Low End to Top End.

13. In most hearings the JC adjourns after hearing evidence to consider the entry point. They
return to give their decision on the entry point and then hear further submissions and
evidence on aggravating and mitigating factors (rules 87(4) & 87(5)). Submissions can
include letters of support or oral presentations. Again the Black Book is very prescriptive
about what points the JC must consider. Please note that the JC can impose a sanction
that is above or below the Entry Point depending on the aggravating and mitigating factors.
However, Rule 87(7) only allows up to a 50 % reduction if :
 it is Low End offending secondly, and
 there are off-field mitigating factors; and
 the sanction would be “wholly disproportionate”.

14.The JC then adjourns again to deliberate in private before returning to give their decision
on the number of weeks (games) for the suspension.

15.The JC must also advise all parties that there is a right of appeal.

Procedures for school pupils
16.Most school hearings are held at the Player’s school around midday with a two-person JC.

17. It is preferable to have the Teacher in Charge of rugby present or the coach/manager.

18.The referee does not usually appear at the school but should be available by phone.

Conclusion
19.The JC does not expect that people appearing before it will have a working knowledge of
the Black Book. Tolerance is given and the duration of the hearing may be extended to
ensure that all parties feel that they are getting a fair hearing. This guide is designed to
help people understand the basic processes and does not substitute in any way from the
procedures that must be followed by the JC.

20.Over the years the JC has handled hundreds of hearings and the Black Book represents
‘best practice’ in allowing the rugby community to handle their own disciplinary procedures.
The independent nature of the process is designed to create a fair structure to dealing with
issues and avoid people taking alternative action (be that on the field or through the
authorities).