I don't give a toss about criticism of my knighthood, says Sir Geoffrey Boycott

Sir Geoffrey Boycott has said he does not "give a toss" about criticism of his knighthood - and claimed his conviction in a French court for domestic violence was one of the reasons he supports Brexit.

Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 4:32 pm

Domestic abuse campaigners have attacked ex-prime minister Theresa May's decision to honour the former England and Yorkshire cricketer, who was convicted in France in 1998 of beating his then girlfriend in a Riviera hotel.

The co-acting chief executive of Women's Aid, Adina Claire, said the award was "very disappointing". And Labour today called for the honour to be rescinded by Boris Johnson.

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But Sir Geoffrey, 78, who lives in Boston Spa, near Wetherby, told BBC Today programme presenter Martha Kearney: "I don't give a toss about her, love.

"Twenty-five years ago. You can take your political nature and do whatever you want with it. I couldn't give a toss."

He claimed that his conviction in a French court was one the reasons why he didn't want the UK to remain in the European Union.

Sir Geoffrey Boycott. Pic: PA

He was commenting after Ms Claire said: "Celebrating a man who was convicted for assaulting his partner sends a dangerous message - that domestic abuse is not taken seriously as a crime.

"With increasing awareness of domestic abuse, and a Domestic Abuse Bill ready to be taken forward by Government, it is extremely disappointing that a knighthood has been recommended for Geoffrey Boycott, who is a convicted perpetrator of domestic abuse."

The cricketer was nominated for a knighthood for services to sport in Mrs May's resignation honours list.

The award was praised by Yorkshire County Cricket Club president, Geoff Cope, who said: “Sir Geoffrey has had an absolutely wonderful career for Yorkshire and England. Nobody will forget his 100th hundred at Headingley. That day, Yorkshire felt for him and his outstanding achievement.

“His achievement in the game of cricket is outstanding and he thoroughly deserves the honour that has been bestowed upon him.

“I don’t think you ever set out to get a knighthood, you set off in the first instance to do a good job, you’re paid to do something you love and clearly Geoffrey was one who performed.

“Everyone at the Club, including myself, are delighted that Geoffrey has been rewarded for his efforts throughout his cricketing career. I’ve said all along he’s the best manmade player that I’ve ever seen. He’s one of the best natural talents around.

"Geoffrey made himself into the player that he was. He practiced hours after everybody else had finished, he went to schools and local clubs to get people to bowl at him, and he just batted on and on. He gave an awful lot to improve to the level of talent he ended up with.”

But Labour's Shadow minister for women and equalities, Dawn Butler, said: "Celebrating a man convicted of assaulting his partner by giving him a knighthood is an insult to victims and survivors of domestic violence.

"Honouring a perpetrator of domestic violence just because he is the former prime minister's favourite sportsman shows how out of touch and nepotistic the honours list is.

"Boris Johnson should rescind his knighthood today. The whole honours system needs radically overhauling, alongside peerages, so that our political system works for the many, not the few."

Theresa May introduced the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill earlier this year, but it failed to make it through Parliament before prorogation so will have be reintroduced when MPs return from their extended break.

Reacting to Sir Geoffrey's radio appearance, the Women's Equality Party called for a "Boycott boycott".

On the knighthood, a spokeswoman from the Woman's Trust said: "It's disappointing to see Geoffrey Boycott included in Theresa May's honours list, given her vocal support for domestic abuse survivors and the Domestic Abuse Bill.

"While we welcome the recent Domestic Abuse Bill for its work to widen the definition of domestic abuse, the inclusion of Geoffrey Boycott in the honours list shows just how much our attitude as a society needs to change when it comes to supporting survivors."

Yorkshire-born Former Spice Girl Melanie Brown, who accused her ex-husband Stephen Belafonte of abuse during court proceedings in the US, also weighed in with criticism of the decision.

Sir Geoffrey was fined £5,000 and given a three-month suspended prison sentence over the incident at the Hotel du Cap in Antibes in October 1996, which left partner Margaret Moore with bruising to her forehead and blackened eyes.

Despite the conviction, Sir Geoffrey has always denied assaulting Ms Moore, accusing her of putting a "stain on my name" and maintaining her injuries were sustained in an accidental fall.

At his trial, public prosecutor Jean-Yves Duval rejected that claim, saying the injuries were "absolutely incompatible" with an accident.

Sir Geoffrey told the BBC today the conviction was "a cross I have to bear". He added: "Good or bad I have to live with it, and I do."

He added: "It is a court case in France when you are guilty, which is one reason I didn't vote to remain in Europe, you are guilty until you are proved innocent. It is totally the opposite in England. It is very difficult to prove you are innocent, in another country and another language."

Mrs May's Domestic Abuse Bill includes economic, controlling and coercive non-physical abuse as part of the legal definition of the crime for the first time.

The legislation will also establish a new domestic abuse commissioner, prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in family courts, and beef up the powers available to courts to tackle perpetrators.

An estimated 1.3 million women and 695,000 men experienced domestic abuse in the previous year, according to Office for National Statistics figures released in November 2018.