An Irish international has pulled out of his involvement with Munster rugby after he and four other players were referred to a French criminal court following allegations of rape by a young woman.
In a statement, Munster confirmed that center Chris Farrell will not be joining the team while the French legal process continues.
Mr Farrell (29), from Five Mile Town, has not been charged with rape but faces a charge of “failing to stop a crime”.
The Bordeaux Court of Appeal confirmed today that three former FC Grenoble rugby players have been extradited to the Gironde Assizes Court on rape charges in Mergnec in 2017, multiple French media outlets reported.
The three are Ireland’s Denis Coulson (28), New Zealand’s Rory Grice (32) and French national Loic James (27). Mr Coulson has played professional rugby for three French teams and Connacht during his career. Most recently he has been playing club rugby in Ireland.
It was also reported that the same court had confirmed the “presence of sufficient evidence” to send two other former Grenoble players to the Assize Court for the alleged crime of “failing to prevent a crime”. They are Mr Farrell and New Zealander Dylan Hayes (28).
In a statement to Independent.ie, Minister Rugby said Mr Farrell would take time away from the team.
“Minister Rugby and Chris Farrell have agreed that, with immediate effect, they will withdraw from their involvement with the Minister Squad pending legal proceedings in France in relation to their alleged involvement as a witness to an alleged crime in 2017. Action is in progress.
“As this is an active legal matter before the French courts, we have no further comment,” the statement said.
The Assistant Court hears serious criminal cases.
All five can still appeal the decision to a second appeals court called the Court of Cassation, which deals with the interpretation of the law rather than the facts of the case.
French media reported that the players denied the complainant’s allegations and insisted that any contact with him was consensual.
The case relates to an alleged incident in March 2017 when several Grenoble players, coming off a top 14 match they lost against Union Bordeaux Beagles, decided to continue their evening at a pub in the city.
There, they allegedly met a 21-year-old student, who was brought back to their hotel.
Le Dauphiné Libéré newspaper reported that an examining magistrate in charge of the case handed down a verdict in June 2019 bringing the charges against Mr Coulson, Mr James and Mr Grice before the Assizes Court. But the decision was appealed by all three men.
A lawyer for Mr. Coulson said in 2019 that the complainant’s allegations were not enough to take the case to criminal court because they contradicted witness testimony.
A lawyer for Mr. James also said this year that there was considerable doubt over the issue of consent to trial.
Le Dauphiné Libéré said Mr Farrell and Mr Hayes were subsequently investigated by a designated magistrate last year for allegedly “not stopping the crime”.
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