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Former professional footballer convicted of assault after 'dangerous' tackle during five-a-side game

Petru Pinto pleaded guilty to reckless assault causing harm at an astroturf pitch in Santry.

Image: Shutterstock/TMA Harding

A FORMER PROFESSIONAL footballer who unintentionally caused the split kidney of another player during a five-a-side game has been given a two and half year suspended sentence.

Petru Pinto (50) of Belgree Boulevard, Tyrrelstown, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to reckless assault causing harm at an astroturf pitch in Ellenfield Park, Santry, Dublin, on 16 November 2012.

A jury failed to reach a verdict on a charge of intentionally assaulting Paul Ceusan causing him harm after a trial on 30 November 2018. Pinto subsequently pleaded guilty to an amended indictment which stated that the assault had been reckless rather than intentional.

Today, Judge Pauline Codd sentenced Pinto to two and a half years in prison which she suspended in full on condition that he pay a sum of €5,000 to the victim within three years.

She said there was never justification for an assault and said people were entitled to enjoy participation in sport as it was beneficial to both the individual and the community.

The judge said many players may expect some risk of injury during the course of a game but said Pinto’s actions “were well beyond the limits expected in a game”.

Judge Codd said the most serious factor in the case was the serious harm caused to the victim but accepted that nobody, including both Pinto and Mr Ceusan, realised the seriousness of the injury until after the game.

She described Pinto’s actions as “a dangerous tackle” and said an injury was to be expected. “He showed a conscious disregard for the potential of his actions,” Judge Codd said.

Judge Codd accepted that Pinto had previous convictions for minor road traffic offences, had not come to garda attention in the six years since the assault and had expressed remorse for his actions.

The judge also noted that Pinto was a person who “participates well in the local community”, illustrated by the fact that he was a founding member of the football club the men were playing for at the time.

At the previous sentence hearing, Detective Garda Ronan Cogavil told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that on the day in question Pinto had a heated verbal exchange with Mr Ceusan during a football match.

Pinto ran in the direction of Mr Ceusan and jumped with his knees raised. His knees collided with the side of Mr Ceusan’s torso causing him to fall to the ground and the match was halted.

Mr Ceusan suffered a Grade 4 renal injury, also called a “split kidney”, requiring a stent to be inserted from his kidney to his bladder.

In a victim impact statement which was read out in court, Mr Ceusan said that he had lost 25% of kidney function and now suffers from high blood pressure. He said his medical costs were €1,350 and he was not able to work for around 20 weeks after sustaining the injury.

Det Garda Cogavil agreed with Dominc McGinn SC, defending, that both men were members of Transylvania FC, a club set up by Pinto and his friends in 2001 for Romanians living in Dublin. Pinto and Mr Ceusan both played professional football in Romania prior to coming to Ireland.

McGinn said his client had contested the trial on the grounds that he had not intended to cause the injuries. He said his client apologised to Mr Ceusan.

McGinn added that there was some dispute as to whether the ball had been in play at the time of the incident and that the confusion as to exactly what had happened could not be resolved “in the absence of an action replay”.

Pinto works as a painter and decorator and has sole custody of his 17 year-old son.

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Brion Hoban and Sonya McLean

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