Former Scotland and Ulster rugby star Simon Danielli has been convicted of assaulting his wife’s alleged lover.
Despite Danielli’s claims that Michael Browne, whom he suspected was having an affair with his wife, was injured when he fell during a “full pelt” sprint as he fled from the 37-year-old former winger, District Judge Mark Hamill told Newtownards Magistrates Court he was satisfied Danielli had struck him in the face.
The judge said that defence suggestions he had sustained such a grievous black eye in a fall were “fanciful” and that he assessed Mr Browne as a “reliable witness” despite defence claims that he and Mrs Danielli had concocted their allegations.
While Danielli, from the Coaches in Holywood, was convicted of assaulting Mr Browne on March 11, 2015 and fined £500 and told to pay a £15 offenders levy, charges that the father-of-three assaulted his estranged wife and damaged her phone in the same incident were dismissed by the judge.
Outlining his reasons for those conclusions, Judge Hamill highlighted the fact that at almost every court level, from the High Court to the industrial tribunal court, there are cases of Danielli against Danielli leading him to “sadly adduce that these two are at daggers, they’re logger heads” with all the relevant “baggage”.
“The idea that the unsupported word of a squabbling spouse against that of the other could provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt is unlikely enough at the best of times,” said the judge, adding however that “when you combine it with the background of ongoing legal backdrops in almost every single court available, it makes it all the more unlikely that the prosecution are going to achieve proof beyond reasonable doubt”.
During three days of evidence last week, the court heard that Danielli initially ran after and then attacked Mr Browne after spotting him and his wife close to Mr Browne’s home in Holywood.
According to the victim, he felt kicks and punches landing on him moments after he fell to the ground so he curled up “in a ball” in an effort to protect himself, describing that having gotten up, he was attacked again, punched to the face and knocked to the ground during a second bout of blows.
Mrs Danielli, from the Marino Station Road also in Holywood, faces a trial in the same court in front of the same judge accused of causing criminal damage to her estranged husband’s £38,000 Jaguar car in August 2015.
Several months ago Judge Hamill told their defence teams to discuss with the prosecution the possibility of binding over orders being handed out where the estranged couple would promise “to be of good behaviour” instead of, as he put it, “washing their dirty linen in public”.