Reports that Ulster racing legend Eddie Irvine has been sentenced to prison in Italy have come as a surprise – including to the Formula One driver himself.
News carried by a wave of different sources yesterday, from the BBC to Reuters, claimed the Co Down racer had been handed a six-month sentence after being convicted over a fracas in a nightclub in December 2008.
Mr Irvine, 48, was not in court when the news emerged, and when the News Letter spoke to a representative of his, it appeared they have been left almost completely in the dark about the whole affair.
Keith Mallin, 51, is managing director of the Eddie Irvine Group and a spokesman for the star, and the driver was said to be “relaxed” about the situation – if somewhat confused by it all.
He had a short conversation with him yesterday, and believes Mr Irvine may currently be in the Bahamas.
Mr Mallin said that the driver “wasn’t even aware that the decision was coming out”.
Mr Irvine is believed to have been having a drink in the VIP section of a Milan club at the time of the disturbance .
The other man involved is reportedly Gabriele Moratti, son of a former Milan mayor. He was also said to have been convicted.
It has been reported they were found guilty of “mutual injury”, and Mr Mallin said Mr Irvine had been advised to sue the Italian.
Asked if he knew what the specific charge Mr Irvine was supposed to have been convicted of was, Mr Mallin said: “No, I don’t, to be honest with you, and I think Eddie is a little bit unclear... It’s a six-month sentence, but then Eddie said: ‘I have to check. I’m assuming it’s a suspended sentence.’
“I can’t give you hard facts, apart from the fact that we’ve been told for sure that both parties will be appealing the sentences.”
He believes “neither of them are likely to ever have to go anywhere near a jail because this case has been going on so long, and to do with the whole time-frame involved, it just wouldn’t happen”.
However, he added that he does not know this for sure, and that much of what they have heard about it has simply been from the press.
Asked if he knew for definite that a conviction had even been handed down, he said: “It’s in the press, so unless it’s all been reported entirely wrong, then we can assume that is the case.”
He added: “What I can tell you is Eddie is extremely relaxed about the whole thing, because he knows it’s been going on a hell of a long time, and he doesn’t expect any time soon to be spending any time in an Italian jail.”
As for the racer’s immediate reaction, Mr Mallin said: “I don’t think much shocks Eddie.”