Boycott's assault appeal dismissed by French court

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Geoffrey Boycott travelled to France to "defend his honour" yesterday and scored a judicial duck.

The former England cricketer appealed against his conviction 16 months ago for beating up his lover in a French hotel. He was, almost literally, laughed out of court.

After a 100-minute hearing in which the judge, public, press and even Boycott's lawyer were occasionally reduced to helpless giggles, his three-month suspended prison sentence and £5,000 fine were confirmed.

Boycott, 59, convicted of punching his lover in the face 20 times in a French Riviera hotel room in 1996, said after the judgment: "I'm not embarrassed and ashamed by anything. I've never hit her."

He went on, once again, to criticise the French judicial system - despite the fact that this was the third opportunity he had been given to defend himself. "I didn't have great hopes, because of the [legal] system and culture, which is different from ours," he said. "She's made a monkey out of the French system."

Earlier, in a final statement, he told the court that he had brought the appeal to defend his most precious possession: his honour. He quoted from Shakespeare's Richard II: "Mine honour is my life. Take away honour and my life isfinished."

At times, despite the seriousness of the charge, the trial resembled a kind of Wallace and Gromit farce: Geoffrey Boycott and the Dangerous Trousers, perhaps.

The court was told that, in Boycott's version of events, Margaret Moore, 48, fell and injured herself as she tried to hurl his trousers from the third-floor window of a luxury hotel in Antibes.

Boycott tried to intervene to save his trousers because his trousers were the most "sensitive part of the male wardrobe", his lawyer said. The judge retorted: "Indeed, I can see that it is a very serious matter." Both men had to pause for a moment to compose themselves.

Ms Moore, who has been accused by her former lover of inventing the account of his violence for financial gain, said that she was "very pleased that justice has been done again. He's guilty. He deserves it. He's a complete liar."

Asked what her feelings were now for the man that she had pursued around the world for four years, she said: "I don't have any at all ... We all make mistakes in life, don't we? Looking back on it, I really don't know what I saw in him."

Like the last trial, in Grasse, in November 1998, the case of the "Republique de France versus Geoffrey Boycott" exposed a great gulf in judicial and cultural mores between Yorkshire and Provence. The presiding judge, Jean-Claude Vuillemin, seemed torn between revulsion and helpless amusement at the evidence presented to his court.

As Ms Moore explained how she has started to throw Boycott's belongings from the window of the £1,000-a-night Hotel du Cap, Judge Vuillemin said: "What an engaging spectacle that must have been ... It is unusual, in a hotel of this quality, for the guests' luggage to come down directly from the front windows."

Boycott, who came to court in a lightweight green jacket and a panama hat, seemed to get off on the wrong foot with the judge. When asked to approach the bench, he unfurled a sheaf of papers and was curtly told that the court was not the place to "read out your memoirs".

Boycott then became involved in a long debate with the judge about the nature of his relationship with Ms Moore. The former Yorkshire and England batsman, television pundit and commentator objected gruffly to the French expression "concubine". "She was never my partner or concubine," he said.

Asked to explain, Boycott said: "We had a relationship of convenience. I was living in England with another woman. She has never been to my house." Evidently startled by the Englishman's lack of gallantry, Judge Vuillemin asked him if he had ever had sex with Ms Moore. "Yes, yes, yes, yes," Boycott replied. "All over the world, over four years, in hotels."

The protagonists gave sharply differing versions of events in Antibes on 2 October 1996. Boycott said that they had quarrelled over lunch because Ms Moore was putting pressure on him to get married and move to Monaco.

Ms Moore said that they had quarrelled because Boycott accused her of failing to make enough money for him in sponsorship deals.

They returned to their room and started to pack. Both agreed that she then began to hurl his toiletries and clothes out of the window.

Ms Moore said that Boycott pushed her to the ground, knelt on her and "punched, punched, punched my eyes. I thought he was never going to stop.I was screaming and screaming."

Pictures taken soon afterwards, shown to the court, showed both Ms Moore's eyes puffy and bruised. A doctor who examined her said the injuries could only have been caused by a beating, not a fall.

Boycott insisted that Ms Moore had fallen and struck her forehead, probably on the carpet, as they wrestled over the trousers. A bump the size of a "hen's egg" had come up on her forehead and the bruising spread later to the rest of her face.

Judge Vuillemin, holding up the pictures of Ms Moore's battered face, commented: "The carpet must not have been good. This is a great hotel, reputed to be comfortable, and even plush, where you could expect the carpets to be soft."

After the hearing, pursued by television and press cameras through the streets of Aix, Boycott said he would "consider with his lawyers" whether to appeal against the decision, but hinted he may not do so. He said he was relieved to have finished with "three years and seven months of hell. Most of the English public believe that I didn't hit her."