One of the country’s top sports lawyers has appeared in court where he has been cleared of attacking his wife at their luxury home.
Chris Farnell, a senior partner at IPS Law, has been advising on the controversial takeover of Leeds United.
He hit the headlines last month after sacking club manager Brian McDermott over the phone, only for the popular manager to be re-instated just days later because the takeover had not been completed.
Farnell, 44, was charged with one count of assault, which relates to an incident on September 24, 2013, during which his wife suffered a perforated eardrum.
He appeared at Trafford Magistrates Court today (Friday) for a trial but was found not guilty of assault.
Manchester-based Farnell, who is currently advising Italian Massimo Cellino in his proposed Leeds United purchase, was accussed of assaulting his wife Rebecca Farnell, 44, at their home in Hale Barns, Altrincham, Greater Manchester.
But he was found not guilty of assault after arguing that he did not lash out at his wife.
Magistrates heard that the couple, who have four children, had begun divorce proceedings on September 3 and the incident happened at their home three weeks later on September 24.
Kate Gaskell, prosecuting, said: “He attended the family home and let himself in at 4pm when she was cooking dinner for the children.
“He asked her to step in to the living room to discuss issues relating to the divorce. He then began to talk about issues relating to the divorce and got angry. He shoulder barged her on to the arm of the sofa. She got up and was facing the defendant.
“He then struck her with his hand around her left ear.
“The defendant was saying ‘look what you have done’.
“Police attended and they saw Rebecca distressed with reddening to her left ear. Police arrested the defendant.”
Giving evidence Mrs Farnell said: “I went in the lounge to speak to him. He had been waiting on a letter from my solicitor and was disappointed he hadn’t yet had it and wanted to discuss further our financial arrangements.
“He was shouting at me. I was sitting at the side of the sofa and he charged at me with his shoulder and pushed me on to the arm of the sofa so I fell on to the seat. I then stood up and he came at me still shouting and he hit me on the side of my head. I don’t know whether it was a punch or with an open hand.
“He struck the left side of my head and ear. It was very painful and there was an intense ringing and I sat down disorientated on the sofa and then tried to get my phone out of my back pocket because I needed help and he snatched it off me.
“He was shouting when he was grabbing the phone. He was saying ‘that’s not your phone, give me my phone’. I went to get to the door and I ended up on the floor and he was obstructing me getting out.
“I ran to the neighbour across the street and phoned the police. The doctor said I had a perforated ear drum.”
In court Farnell’s statement to police was read out. It said: “She had the phone in her hand so I went to grab it and take it off her. She scratched me and left a mark on my finger. She was on the back of the settee and kicking out at me. She kicked me on the shin and left a mark and I was concerned she was going to kick me in the face. She had lost control of herself. I had not seen her like this ever.”
In evidence to the court he said: “I’ve never been aggressive or violent in our time together. When I arrived at the house we had letters relating to the American property we have. We had agreed to keep the American property but I needed her help because she managed all the bills.
“I went to get the phone and she kicked out at me with feet and sat back so I couldn’t get the phone.
“When she got up from the settee I was scared she was going to hit me and I have recently had an operation on my face so it was sensitive. I pushed her down on her face. I have no doubt in my mind she was going to hit me. I have no idea why she wanted the phone. I didn’t think she wanted to call the police because nothing had happened.
“I don’t want a divorce and certainly don’t want my children having bad memories. I didn’t want a little girl to look between mummy and daddy and decide where she has to go.
“I am a solicitor. I would not have stopped anyone ringing the police. Saddened isn’t a word I would use. I am absolutely devastated that my only girlfriend and someone I have known for 24 years would behave in this way. I have had a horrific time of this. I don’t sleep. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy and have no idea why she would do this. It’s awful. I feel tortured with the situation.”
Lawyer Frederick Rose gave a character reference to the court, saying he had known the defendant for 18 years.
He said: “He has represented many high profile sports personalities, premier league footballers and celebrities. I believe he is one of the leading sports lawyers because he has personal attributes. He does a professional job without basking in the glory. I’ve never seen him lose his temper or raise his voice.”
Chair of magistrates Tom Fredrickson said: “We think both you and Rebecca gave consistent and emotional evidence which each amount to a plausible account.
“As to the plausibility of both you and Rebecca and the lack of co operative evidence Bar the agreed facts we can’t be sure beyond reasonable doubt and therefore you are not guilty.”
According to his website Farnell was involved in Sheffield United’s player’s high profile legal action against West Ham United over the “Tevez affair” in 2008.
His website also states that Farnell acted “on behalf of Cristiano Ronaldo during his time in the UK on various significant commercial matters”.