Harlequins 'bloodgate' rugby physio wins court appeal

Steph Brennan and Tom Williams
Image caption Steph Brennan (left) has had his dismissal quashed

Former Harlequins physiotherapist Steph Brennan has won a court appeal against his dismissal for his role in rugby union's "bloodgate" scandal.

Mr Brennan's lawyers accused the Health Professions Council (HPC) of unlawfully imposing a two-year ban for helping winger Tom Williams fake an injury.

It was dubbed "bloodgate" after the player bit into a fake blood capsule.

Mr Brennan said he was now asking the HPC to reconsider the sanction imposed on him.

He said: "I am desperate to contribute positively to the physiotherapy profession having damaged it by my actions, for which I apologise unequivocally.

"I'd like to thank all those that helped me in this process, in particular those who contributed to the online petition."

'Too little too late'

Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting at the High Court, quashed his dismissal and ordered the HPC to reconsider the case.

Mr Brennan's lawyer Paul Harris argued that the HPC had adopted a "one strike and you are out for good" approach and the physio's ban was of "gross severity".

Mr Harris argued in court: "We do say that Mr Brennan does merit sanction, but the issue here is the gross severity of one strike and you are out for life. It is a sanction of last resort."

But Stephen Brassington, for the HPC, said the misconduct "was so egregious and damaging to the reputation of his profession that the only appropriate way to deal with it was striking off".

He said: "His [Mr Brennan's] expressions of remorse and sorrow simply were too little too late."

The HPC's lawyer argued that the panel's order was not open to legal challenge.

Mr Brennan admitted helping Williams fake an injury during Harlequins' Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat by Leinster in April 2009.

The supposed injury allowed the club to replace the player with a specialist goal-kicker in the last few minutes of the game.

Club fined

He admitted in total five instances of faking blood injuries, between the rugby club's 2005-06 season and the 2009 game.

He said on three occasions he had provided players with fake blood capsules for their welfare and the fourth time to get a player on to the pitch after a team-mate had been sent to the sin-bin.

Tom Williams was initially barred from the game for 12 months, a ban reduced to four months after he admitted using the capsule.

The then director of rugby at Harlequins, Dean Richards, was banned by the European Rugby Cup for three years and the club was fined £259,000.

Mr Brennan was due to begin work with the Rugby Football Union as an England physio before the incident came to light.

Since the ban was imposed in September he has carried on working in private practice.

Sue Browning, Deputy Chief Executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: "We note the outcome and will continue to work closely with Steph as he prepares for his hearing at the Health Professions Council."

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