Distin fined over Barton trial
Monday 14 July 2008
Premier League footballer Sylvain Distin was today fined £2,000 for failing to attend the aborted assault trial of former team-mate Joey Barton.
The Frenchman was warned he could have faced a jail term if his absence had led to a delay in court proceedings.
Distin, 30, ignored a hand-delivered summons to appear in court and flew to Crete for a holiday with his family days before the hearing at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court on 30 June.
The Portsmouth defender was required to give verbal evidence after witnessing the training ground bust-up at Manchester City last May in which Barton attacked Ousmane Dabo.
Judge Mushtaq Khokhar told Distin his non-appearance would have halted the case if Barton had not changed his plea to guilty and a custodial sentence could have followed.
Appearing in the witness box, Distin told the judge he did not understand what a summons was because he had never been arrested or appeared before a court.
Judge Khokhar said however that there could have been no misunderstanding when he received the notice from a police constable at his home in Poole, Dorset, on 11 May.
A warning stating clearly that failure to attend without just excuse may be treated as a contempt of court was on all such documents, he said.
He said: "In my mind there is no doubt Sylvain Distin did know that he had to attend.
"He chose not to cancel this holiday knowing full well he had a duty to attend.
"When somebody fails to attend that is treated very seriously indeed.
"Normally a short custodial sentence follows but I am not going to do that. At the end of the day the case resolved itself without the necessity for Mr Distin to attend.
"That is not to say the court does not express its displeasure at this conduct."
Addressing Distin, he added: "I hope there is something you have learned about the obligations to this court."
Distin was also ordered to pay £982.95 prosecution costs and told to pay his fine within 14 days or face 30 days' imprisonment.
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