Hayne, de Belin trial outcomes could deter sexual assault victims from pursuing charges, say experts

BOCSAR executive director Jackie Fitzgerald said the recent trials of prominent footballers had highlighted the standard of proof used in criminal proceedings, requiring an offence to be proven beyond reasonable doubt.


Ms Fitzgerald said the low conviction rate was an intractable issue and the outcomes in the trials of the footballers were likely to have an impact on how many victims pursued charges.

“Those particular cases are obviously harrowing for those people involved and it’s reasonable to think that could translate into reduced reporting, even for a short period. I think that’s likely,” she said.

Nicholas Cowdery, QC, former NSW director of public prosecutions, said there was already a deterrent effect for victims who did not want to go through a traumatic trial where their version of events would be aggressively questioned.

“When people see that in cases that attract a lot of publicity … the alleged victim is put through a very testing experience and the end result is either indecision or an acquittal then I think it’s a fair comment that would act as an additional deterrent to any victims in that situation from coming forward,” Mr Cowdery said.

Mr Cowdery said it was easy for the defence to sow enough doubt in jurors’ minds as they weigh up one person’s word against another’s, especially when the matter hinged on the question of consent.


He said some of the difficulty for victims in sexual assault trials was an inevitable result of important legal concepts – like the presumption of innocence and proving an offence beyond reasonable doubt – but the process could still be improved and delays reduced.

Some reforms have already been put in place that seek to make it easier for complainants, including allowing the use of a complainant’s original evidence in a retrial and permitting evidence to be given by videolink rather than in the court room.

Among other suggested changes to consent laws, a recent NSW Law Reform Commission report recommended juries receive improved directions to address misconceptions about consensual and non-consensual sex.

The report was commissioned by the state government in 2018 following the acquittal of Luke Lazarus, who was accused of rape by Saxon Mullins. The highly publicised matter, which centred on the question of consent, involved a trial, a retrial and two appeals over five years.

Former NSW director of public prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery, QC, believes sexual assault reporting might be affected by recent court outcomes.

Former NSW director of public prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery, QC, believes sexual assault reporting might be affected by recent court outcomes. Credit:Rob Homer

Ms Mullins criticised the findings of the report and said the law should change to stop an accused relying in court on a mistaken belief in consent based on reasonable grounds unless they took steps to find out if the other person was consenting to sex.

Helen Campbell, executive officer of Women’s Legal Service NSW, said it would be understandable if seeing the price paid by sexual assault victims in criminal trials affected potential complainants.

“I have no personal experience of any particular client saying they would not report to police because of an outcome they saw in the news but it wouldn’t surprise me,” she said.

Ms Campbell pointed to the trial of de Belin and his friend Callan Sinclair which saw the 19-year-old complainant give evidence in the witness box over five days.

“Who would want to do that? And why is it allowed? … The criminal justice system needs to be reformed to be more supportive and protective of victim witnesses,” she said.

The juries in the trial of de Belin and Sinclair and the separate Hayne trial were both unable to reach a verdict in late 2020.

Hayne was accused of sexually assaulting a 26-year-old woman in her Newcastle home. He pleaded not guilty and a jury of eight men and four women was discharged after they were unable to reach a verdict. Hayne will face a retrial next year.

De Belin and Sinclair both pleaded not guilty to allegations they raped the 19-year-old woman in Wollongong in December 2018 after a night out. The pair said the encounter was entirely consensual. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous or majority verdict on the five charges of aggravated sexual assault against each man. A retrial has been scheduled for April.

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NRL 2020: no-fault stand down policy, Jack de Belin, Andrew Abdo, arbitration hearing

The NRL’s no-fault stand down policy will be put to the test this week when the governing body and Rugby League Players Association go before an arbitrator on Thursday.

However, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo is comfortable with the policy’s place in the game and says “it’s not going anywhere.”

The Sydney Morning Heraldreports the RLPA is challenging the rule, arguing it was introduced in February, 2019, without adequate consultation making it a breach of the players’ collective bargaining agreement.

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The NRL will go into the hearing with a slight edge given the no-fault stand down policy was examined in court in May last year. Federal Court Justice Melissa Perry dismissed a claim that the rule constituted an “unlawful trade” for Dragons player Jack de Belin.

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NRL 2020 Transfers: Jack Bird, St George Illawarra Dragons, Jack de Belin retrial, Anthony Griffin

Jack Bird has opened up on the end to his nightmare time at the Brisbane Broncos, declaring “they didn’t care about me”.

Bird, who signed a bumper four-year deal worth almost $4 million in 2018, was restricted to just 17 NRL games at the Broncos before joining St. George Illawarra despite having a year left on his contract.

Injuries plagued his time at Red Hill with the 25-year-old enduring two season-ending ACL injuries.

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NRL 2020: Jack de Belin cancer diagnosis, testicular cancer, rape trial, St. George-Illawarra Dragons

NRL player Jack de Belin underwent surgery following a cancer diagnosis this year.

The Daily Telegraphreports that de Belin found a lump in his testicle earlier this year and recently underwent surgery for testicular cancer.

It is the second-most common form of cancer found among young men aged 18-39.

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The report claims that de Belin underwent surgery in early September after seeking medical advice and that it was a success.

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Jack de Belin cancer, Dragons star testicular surgery, court news

NRL star Jack de Belin has undergone surgery following a shock cancer diagnosis this year.

De Belin has kept his private medical condition secret this year after undergoing surgery for testicular cancer in September.

The 29-year-old is also facing a second sexual assault trial in Sydney next year.

The Dragons star and his co-accused Callan Sinclair, 23, are facing a District Court retrial after a jury was discharged this week after failing to reach a verdict.

After deliberating for just under two days, the jury of seven men and five woman were discharged on Monday afternoon, unable to return a verdict for either man.

The St George Illawarra forward and his friend were facing the possibility of a nine-month wait for a retrial because of the backlog of the cases in the Wollongong District Court.

The shock cancer diagnosis came at the time de Belin and his legal team were preparing for his upcoming trial.

The Daily Telegraph first reported de Belin’s shock diagnosis came after he found a lump in his testicle earlier this year.

After consulting a specialist, de Belin had keyhole surgery.

The operation was reportedly a success and he is expected to make a full recovery.

De Belin has missed the past two years of his NRL playing career after being stood down under the game’s “no fault” rule.

The NRL earlier this week ruled out making any changes to its hard line “no-fault” stand down policy.

A second trial is set to commence on April 12, 2021, at Sydney District Court.

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De Belin no distraction for Dragons in NRL

Stood-down NRL star Jack de Belin trained with St George Illawarra for the past two seasons but coach Anthony Griffin is adamant it won’t be a distraction for the team in 2021.

A day after de Belin’s retrial on rape accusations was scheduled for April in Sydney, after a jury in Wollongong failed to reach a verdict, Griffin said NRL training should be the furthest thing from the 29-year-old’s mind.

Speaking for the first time as Dragons coach on Thursday, Griffin said former State of Origin forward de Belin would not be returning to training in the short term.

De Belin’s presence at training has been labelled a distraction to the misfiring side in the past but Griffin said it wouldn’t be a problem next season.

“He’s got a legal battle on his hands,” Griffin said.

“Personally I respect that, we’ve got no control over it so that will be his main focus at the moment, not training with the football team.

“Right at the moment that’s something external to what’s happening here.

“He’s been in a legal battle, this is probably the furthest thing from his mind at the moment.”

Having their best forward in peak physical condition at training but unable to play has been a cloud hanging over the Dragons for the past two seasons.

In both campaigns they have finished in the bottom four.

It’s a situation that threatens to spoil the Dragons’ 2021 season too with de Belin’s retrial set to commence in April, meaning if he is found not guilty the first match he could play is in round nine.

It’s understood the NRL has offered the club salary cap dispensation for de Belin’s replacement while he is unavailable, after he agreed to a three-year deal with the Dragons.

That contract is yet to be registered by the NRL and until the legal process is completed he is only receiving a percentage of his pay.

Whether that has an impact on the salary cap and the Dragons’ top 30 roster, Griffin is unconcerned.

“It’s honestly not an issue for me,” he said.

“I’ll find out off Ryan Webb (Dragons chief executive) in due course into how that affects our salary cap, but I don’t think it will affect it if the NRL has stood him down.”

Regardless, Griffin is confident in the players he has available despite losing Tyson Frizell, Korbin Sims, James Graham and Jacob Host.

“(de Belin) hasn’t been here for two years so we don’t need to replace him,” he said.

“Tyson Frizell, James Graham, Jacob Host have left.

“Poasa Faamausili has trained really well and Jack Bird has come onto the list.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence with the guys on our list.

“We’ve got a bit of capacity with our salary cap and we’ll fill that when we have the right people.”

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NRL 2021: St George Illawarra Dragons, Jack de Belin, Anthony Griffin interview, Lara Pitt

The Dragons have pledged to stand by Jack de Belin and have dismissed concerns the star lock’s uncertain future will negatively impact the squad, salary cap or team’s on-field performance.

De Belin’s playing future is under a cloud after the jury in his sexual assault trial was unable to reach a verdict this week.

St George Illawarra CEO Ryan Webb says a clause in de Belin’s recent contract extension means the player will only be paid a percentage of his salary if his case continues beyond the 2020 season.

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NRL 2021: Jack de Belin, Callan Sinclair, rape trial, new court date, St George Illawarra Dragons

St George Illawarra lock Jack de Belin has a new court date after the jury was unable to reach a verdict in his rape trial.

The NSW Origin forward and Callan Sinclair are accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a Wollongong apartment in December 2018. Both deny the charges.

The jury deliberated for a total of 10 hours before informing the judge on Monday that “the divide (among the jury)… has remained consistent and is unlikely to change”.

A date for a retrial has been set for April 12 in Sydney. Initially it appeared as though de Belin would have to wait until August for a retrial to take place in Wollongong.

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Jack de Belin retrial set for April

St George Illawarra NRL star Jack de Belin and Shellharbour Sharks player Callan Sinclair are set to face a retrial in Sydney in April 2021.

The pair will defend five charges each of aggravated sexual assault before a NSW District Court judge and jury in the Downing Centre from April 12 after no available date was found in Wollongong before August.

Jack de Belin will face a retrial in April 2021.Credit:Kate Geraghty

The fresh date comes after a jury announced it was unable to deliver a unanimous or majority verdict against the pair on Monday after nine hours of deliberating following three weeks of evidence in the high-profile trial against the footballers.

If found not guilty, the April fixture could pave the way for Mr de Belin, 29, to re-enter the NRL mid-season and salvage his $600,000 playing career.

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NRL won’t budge on de Belin stand down despite hung jury

The matter will be mentioned in court again on Wednesday after an ashen-faced de Belin left Wollongong District Court on Monday still not cleared of rape allegations.

De Belin and Sinclair have pleaded not guilty to all charges and argued they had consensual sex with a 19-year-old woman after a night partying in December 2018.

St George Illawarra footballer Jack de Belin, 29, has pleaded not guilty to aggravated sexual assault.Credit:Kate Geraghty

Despite mounting pressure on the NRL to re-evaluate its hardline policy which was “never designed” for such a lengthy criminal proceeding, the code remains firm in its stance de Belin won’t be on the field for St George Illawarra’s local derby against the Sharks in round one next year.

“The no-fault stand-down rule is not about forming a view on the guilt or innocence of an individual, it is about protecting the values and reputation of the game while a serious criminal process is underway,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

“Mr de Belin will remain subject to the no-fault stand-down rule until his criminal proceedings have been determined by the court.”

De Belin’s manager Steve Gillis said he wanted to talk to Australian Rugby League Commission chair Peter V’landys before Christmas about the policy, which has been implemented for numerous players including Dylan Walker, Tyrone May and Manase Fainu.

Walker and May have both returned to the field after their criminal proceedings had finished. Walker was found not guilty of domestic assault, while May pleaded guilty to recording four sex tapes without the consent of the women in them and narrowly avoided jail time. Fainu is facing three charges after allegedly stabbing a man at a church dance in Wattle Grove in 2019. The Sea Eagles player is pleading not guilty and will stand trial next year.

Asked about the policy, Gillis said: “We’ll be having a conversation with them at some stage.

“I think we’d all agree the rule wasn’t designed to have someone sit three years out of footy and that’s the way it’s looking today.

“[Australian Rugby League Commission chairman] Peter V’landys is a very approachable and sensible person and you’d like to think we’d be able to have a discussion and we can find some common ground. The rule was never designed for this.”


The Dragons are expected to leave a decision on whether de Belin returns to training with Anthony Griffin’s squad to the 29-year-old, in consultation with the football department. He has trained for the last two years with teammates on full pay without having played a single game.

The Dragons announced in September de Belin had an in-principle agreement with the club to extend his contract with the Red V, pending the criminal charges. That was despite a big-money offer from the Warriors and the Dragons have committed a significant amount of salary cap space to de Belin for 2021 and beyond.

The club inserted protection clauses into de Belin’s contract regarding pay and will now have to wait several more months before determining whether the deal stands.

“We’ll continue to support Jack through this period,” Dragons chief executive Ryan Webb said.

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