Greek justice threw the book at Harry Maguire, and fast.
His international football career was put on hold after a court gave him a suspended jail term, for repeated bodily harm, attempted bribery, violence against public employees and insult after arrest on Mykonos.
He has now appealed, and is now presumed innocent unless the appeal court finds him guilty.
Why was it so quick to get a conviction?
Partly because, in the eyes of Greek justice, he was “caught red-handed”.
“In Greek criminal procedure there is a process known as “in flagrante delicto” and it applies to people caught in the act of committing an offence,” says Athens lawyer Konstantinos Starantzis. In other words, in this sort of case it’s totally normal.
For up to 48 hours from the time of an alleged offence – until midnight the next day – police can arrest someone without a warrant.
Then, after a preliminary investigation, the suspect must be brought before a public prosecutor, who will decide whether to indict or not. If there’s an indictment, a trial must take place either the same day or the day after.
Why were there so many charges?
In Greece, as anywhere else, resistance to arrest and violence towards police officers, if proven at court, is not easily tolerated.
The Syros court was convinced that there was some sort of violence towards the policemen involved in the case for two reasons:
- The policemen would have had no legitimate or reasonable cause to persecute Maguire and his friends
- The officers presented evidence of their injuries
In the eyes of the judges, Harry Maguire committed both offences, plus that of attempted bribery, so they simply handed him a relevant sentence.
Is it unusual for this sort of case to go to court?
Booze brawls on popular Greek islands are a common occurrence during the summer.
Greek authorities have no interest in either hurting the country’s tourism or adding more cases to an already burdened justice system. The reason why this case made it to court was simply because it involved allegations of violence against policemen.
Did Maguire get a fair trial?
It appears both due process and the rule of law were followed.
However, with regard to a request brought by Harry Maguire’s defence for a postponement of the trial, the judges were not very lenient.
Postponement, especially when a new legal team is hired by the defence, is common in Greek trials. It was not obligatory, though, and the judge was well within his remit to reject it.
In some cases, judges decide to reject such requests for secondary reasons, for example to take advantage of witnesses present in the courtroom who might be absent if the trial takes place a year later, or simply to avoid legal tactics of procrastination.
What did the defence say?
During this first stage of the legal process, and pending the footballer’s appeal, his defence team failed to convince the judges.
England defender Maguire, his brother Joe, and family friend Christopher Sharman denied the charges.
The defence focused heavily on their account of how an initial fight started in the alleyways of Mykonos with a group of Albanians.
Ioannis Paradissis, a lawyer for two of the policemen involved, said this was no defence for the charges for which Harry Maguire was accused. “They have injuries and the three defendants say they are not guilty but… they don’t explain how these injuries were made,” he told the BBC’s Today Programme.
Ahead of the verdict, the footballer’s lawyer, Andreas Anagnostakis, said his client’s conduct was justified because the policemen had allegedly attacked him in his “golden leg” and told him “your career is over”.
As it was based on Harry Maguire’s words, the judges found this defence not proven in court.
According to the prosecution, the attempted bribery charge involved Harry Maguire asking whether he could pay a fine to be released from police custody.
His lawyer did not completely deny that, suggesting “it could have been something that was lost in translation”.
What hope for his appeal?
It is unclear how long that might take but it usually takes a year from the moment an appeal is lodged.
But in Greece an appeal is in effect a retrial, according to Ioannis Paradissis.
“So obviously there is still time for the three defendants to say they are sorry and then I believe that the outcome might be different.”
As Maguire’s club, Manchester United, point out, by lodging an appeal the verdict has been quashed, the conviction nullified and he has neither a criminal record nor is subject to any international travel restrictions.
In the months before Harry Maguire’s appeal, his defence team will face a decision whether to provide a more detailed explanation of his innocence or accept wrongdoing and apologise in exchange for the charges to be dropped.
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