Belfast Telegraph

Schoolgirl footballer accused of attacking opponent wins legal challenge

A schoolgirl footballer accused of attacking an opponent has won her legal challenge to prosecutors denying a possible diversionary disposal of her case.

Northern Ireland's most senior judge quashed the decision and directed reconsideration of the matter.

The 17-year-old girl, who cannot be identified, issued judicial review proceedings against the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) over allegations that she inflicted grievous bodily harm on the pitch.

She plays for a ladies team who had their match abandoned in May last year following an incident where she struck a player from the other side.

During police interview she admitted punching the opponent but denied kicking her in the face while she was on the ground. 

She showed remorse, stating she did not mean to inflict the level of injury involved. 

However, the victim alleged that she was kicked and claimed other witnesses back her account.

Prosecutors brought a case against the schoolgirl on the basis of trying to establish a kick was inflicted.

Her lawyers mounted a Court of Appeal challenge to the PPS approach to possible diversionary disposal of a case considered to involve only partial or limited admissions. 

The girl sought an order quashing the decision that she was not suitable for such an outcome.

In a ruling made in September but only published today, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan set out the guidelines for diversion.

One part states it may be appropriate to direct a diversionary option in exceptional circumstances where the offender has made limited or partial admissions and there are cogent public interest considerations.

Sir Declan held that in the girl's case the decision maker had not taken into account the public interest considerations in determining diversion should not arise.

"It seems to us procedurally that that flies in the face of what the guidelines require him to do," he said.

The judge concluded it was an exceptional case which entitled the court to intervene.

He confirmed: "We do so by quashing the decision of the prosecutor and remit the matter to the PPS for the decision to be made according to law."

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