Highlanders winger Kurt Baker has been suspended for six weeks after he pleaded guilty on a charge of dangerous tackling in his team's 33-30 victory over the Rebels.
SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Nicholas Davidson QC accepted a guilty plea from Baker for contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he was cited during a Super Rugby match at the weekend.
Baker has been suspended from all forms of the game for six weeks up to and including 16 May 2014.
The incident occurred in the 12th minute of the match between the Highlanders and Rebels at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Friday 4 April 2014.
SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Nicholas Davidson QC assessed the case and a paraphrased version of his full record of the DJO process is as follows.
In his finding, Mr Davidson said, "After reviewing the video footage and hearing from the player and his representatives, including counsel Mr Aaron Lloyd, and obtaining their views of the incident, I proceeded on the basis required of a Duty Judicial Officer that breach was established.
"The footage showed the player driving the Rebels player away from the breakdown before lifting and tipping him rapidly to the ground. I considered that the potential for harm was significant as the tackled player was lifted high off the ground and tipped quickly so that despite the Rebels' player attempt to break his fall with his arm, his neck made contact with the ground. The tackler has the responsibility not to place the tackled player at such risk and in this case, the player was placed in a very vulnerable position and was fortunate to not be injured. "
"The incident was found to have an entry point in the mid-range which starts at eight weeks. I then added two weeks as a deterrent for this type of tackle as it has been widely acknowledged that this type of action can not be tolerated in the game due to the risk to players. This was acknowledged by the player and by Highlanders management."
Based on acceptance of the indicated sanction, and the player’s excellent disciplinary and playing record, a discount was given to bring the suspension to six weeks. The player is suspended up to and including Friday 16 May 2014.
All SANZAR disciplinary matters are in the first instance referred to a Duty Judicial Officer hearing to provide the option of expediting the judicial process.
For a matter to be dispensed with at this hearing, the person appearing must plead guilty and accept the penalty offered by the DJO.
Duty Judicial Officer: Nicholas Davidson QC
Player: Kurt Baker
Date of Incident: 4 April 2014
Nature of Offence: Law 10.4 (j) Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player's feet are still off the ground such that the player's head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.
Elapsed time in match when incident occurred: 12th minute