Sydney: A clerical error by the International Cricket Council (ICC) saved Harbhajan Singh from a possible suspension, justice Hansen who heard his case said on Wednesday.
Harbhajan was fined half his match fee after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of using offensive language against Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds after he was cleared of more serious racial abuse charge during the second Test in Sydney earlier this month.
However, New Zealand high court judge John Hansen said Harbhajan might have received a tougher penalty had the ICC correctly informed him about all his prior convictions.
Hansen said the ICC told him Harbhajan had only one prior offence but after he had handed down his penalty, he discovered the Indian spinner had four previous offences.
The most serious of those offences occurred in South Africa in 2001 when Bhajji was given a suspended sentence for showing dissent and trying to influence an umpire.
"If I had been aware of the serious transgression in Nov 2001 I would have required more extensive submissions as to the offence in mitigation which could have led to a different penalty," Hansen wrote in his 49-page judgement released on Wednesday.
Hansen said that as soon as he became aware of the mistake, he began reviewing the code of conduct of laws to see whether he could change Harbhajan's penalty, but discovered he was powerless to act.
"Regrettably I have concluded that I cannot do so and the penalty imposed by me must stand," he said.
"At the end of the day Harbhajan can feel himself fortunate that he has reaped the benefit of these database and human errors."
Harbhajan had originally been found guilty under Level-3.3 offence for racially abusing Symonds but Hansen dismissed the case for want of evidence although he charged the Indian with the lesser offence of using abusive language.