Broadcasters drop Boycott as assault conviction is upheld (11 November 1998)

11 November 1998

Broadcasters drop Boycott as assault conviction is upheld

By David Graves and Susannah Herbert in Paris

GEOFFREY BOYCOTT faced an uncertain future in sports broadcasting and a £200,000 legal bill last night after a French judge upheld a conviction for assaulting his former girlfriend.

Boycott, 58, who has been earning an estimated £100,000 a year as a cricket commentator, is unlikely to broadcast again. His last commentating job, in Pakistan for Australian television, co-incidentally ended yesterday as the guilty verdict was delivered after a retrial.

The BBC, BSkyB and Channel 4 all said they had no plans to use the former England and Yorkshire batsman again following his conviction for assaulting Margaret Moore, 46. She claimed that she had been punched 20 times in the face, head and body at a five-star hotel in Antibes in October 1996.

The Sun announced that it had terminated its contract with him for a regular column. A newspaper spokesman said: "Our readers would find repugnant the idea of us employing someone with a conviction for violence against a woman."

Boycott's lucrative promotional and endorsement work is also in jeopardy because of the conviction, which upheld a guilty verdict originally imposed in January. The first conviction had been set aside pending the retrial in Grasse three weeks ago at which Boycott gave evidence. He was given a suspended three-month prison sentence, fined £5,300 and ordered to pay Miss Moore one franc (11p) in compensation. Boycott will also be responsible for the £200,000 costs of assembling 13 defence witnesses.

BSkyB said it had no plans to use Boycott as part of its coverage of the Ashes series between Australia and England this winter and the cricket World Cup next summer. The BBC, which had used Boycott in its coverage of the summer series between England and South Africa after lifting a suspension pending the retrial, said: "Geoffrey Boycott is not under contract to the BBC and there are no plans to use him in the future."

Channel 4, which recently won the rights to broadcast English Test cricket from the BBC, had been waiting for the outcome of the French court hearing before deciding whether to open negotiations with Boycott. No talks will now take place. Trans World International, the London-based production company that employed Boycott in Pakistan, will review his position next week.

On hearing the verdict in Pakistan, a despondent Boycott said: "When I went to see the film Fatal Attraction I never believed it could ever happen to me." Miss Moore, 46, said: "I don't think I'll get my franc because he is a little tight-fisted. If I get a cheque I'll frame it and if I don't I'll send him a writ."


Monsieur Boycott, you're no gentleman

By Susannah Herbert in Paris and David Graves

Jobless: BoycottGEOFFREY BOYCOTT was given a three month suspended prison sentence and fined £5,300 yesterday after being found guilty by a French court of assaulting his former girlfriend in Antibes two years ago.

The former England and Yorkshire cricketer was also ordered to pay a symbolic one franc (about 11p) compensation to Margaret Moore, 46, for the severe bruising she suffered after the couple quarrelled on Oct 2, 1996 at the five-star Hotel du Cap.

Boycott, a 58-year-old bachelor, had been originally convicted of the offence in his absence last January, but the verdict had been set aside pending a retrial three weeks ago in Grasse at which the former cricketer gave evidence supported by a team of 13 defence witnesses.

In a withering judgment on Boycott, who had angrily accused lawyers and court officials of speaking in French during the retrial, Judge Dominique Haumant-Daumas said he had wrecked the "perfect gentleman" image he had tried to portray with his behaviour in court.

In a seven-page written judgment, she said: "In the court the accused didn't hesitate rudely to interrupt Ms Moore's barrister, thereby tarnishing the image of the perfect gentleman which he brought his old friends and witnesses to testify to. His arguments did not support the theory of an accidental fall that the accused man said happened and the court decided that Ms Moore was a victim on Oct 2, 1996, of purposeful blows."

Boycott's lawyer, Richard Knaggs, immediately filed an appeal. He maintained the conviction was "beyond belief". He said: "We start again. We have made an immediate appeal. The conviction goes away. He is not guilty of anything. We always knew it was going to be difficult with the French legal system but Boycott knows he is innocent. Obviously we are disappointed with the decision. I will say what I think of French justice after the appeal. We had a game plan which didn't go as anticipated."

Boycott expressed his low opinion of Judge Haumant-Daumas from Lahore, where he has been commentating on the cricket series between Pakistan and Australia for Australian television. He said: "Obviously I am very disappointed with the court's decision. But in view of the way the trial was conducted, I suppose it is not a total surprise. In my view, we clearly disproved every allegation made by Margaret Moore, but obviously not in the view of the French magistrate."

Boycott, who spent more than £200,000 on his defence, failed to convince the judge that Miss Moore's two black eyes and swollen right temple had been caused by an accidental fall rather than by a series of blows to the face.

The couple had first met six years ago in the Bahamas. Romantic meals and meetings at hotels around the world where the former cricketer's work as a commentator took him, followed. But by the autumn of 1996 their relationship was faltering.

In an attempt to maintain their affair, Miss Moore invited Boycott on an all-expenses paid trip to the French Riviera. On Oct 2 the couple lunched by the pool at their hotel. Despite the convivial environment, the couple argued over Miss Moore's plans for them to marry and move to Monaco.

Boycott, the man for whom the psychiatrist Anthony Clare revised the phrase "no man is an island," refused to consider his lover's proposal. Devoted to his mother, with whom he lived until he was 38, the batsman had always chosen commitment to his sport and turned down an array of women offering him domestic stability and long-term love. He was also still seeing long-term companion of four decades, Anne Wyatt, whom he had met at a pensions office in Barnsley when he was 18.

When Miss Moore pressed her demands for marriage the meal ended abruptly as Boycott went to their room to pack his suitcase with the intention of leaving. He maintained during the retrial that Miss Moore burst through the bedroom door in a rage and threatened to commit suicide by jumping from their third-floor window.

After apparently having a change of heart she then started to throw his belongings outside. During the subsequent confrontation Miss Moore ended up with a severely bruised face. She claimed that Boycott had deliberately punched her 20 times in the face, head and body, while the former batsman claimed that Miss Moore simply slipped and banged her head on the floor.

Boycott's defence strategy backfired as testimony from Boycott's witnesses - including two Boycott girlfriends, two women injured in accidental falls and several doctors who had never met Ms Moore - dragged out the hearing for 10 hours.

The session was enlivened by Boycott's explosions of anger - he told the magistrate, lawyers and prosecutor to "Shut up!" - and by Judge Haumant-Daumas's unintentionally comic queries, including "What size is a cricket ball?" and "Who is Shredded Wheat?" Boycott also complained: "Everyone's talking, talking, talking in French and I don't understand."

The case will now be referred to the Court of Appeal in Aix-en-Provence, where it will eventually be tried by three judges.

Boycott's current girlfriend, Rachel Swinglehurst, the mother of his 10-year-old daughter Emma Jane, said at the courthouse after the verdict: "He will not be depressed. He is realistic. He knows he is innocent and he hopes the public know he is innocent too."

Miss Moore, a divorced mother-of-two, said: "I feel that justice has been done. He has lost twice and I am very very pleased. Tonight I am going to have a glass of champagne. I think he should get some treatment and maybe he will be better. Maybe he should see a psychiatrist."

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)