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Scotland avoids hard yards for assault

Carlton player Heath Scotland dodged conviction at an Albury court, where he faced charges of assault for his involvement in a pub brawl last January.

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Carlton footballer Heath Scotland escaped conviction on an assault charge after telling the court that it would ruin his chances of becoming a firefighter.

But the Metropolitan Fire Brigade said today that he wouldn't qualify for the job anyway.

And earlier today, it was revealed that Scotland escaped a conviction for assault six years ago after using the same excuse heard in court yesterday — that he wanted to become a firefighter.

Carlton footballer Heath Scotland (centre) leaves Albury Court today.

Carlton footballer Heath Scotland (centre) leaves Albury Court. Photo: Tara Ashworth/Border Mail

In May 2005, the Blues midfielder was charged with assault and recklessly causing injury after he allegedly struck a woman on the face at the Next Blue nightclub in Melbourne. Scotland had had a brief relationship with the woman.

When he was sentenced the following year, deputy chief magistrate Paul Smith told the court that while the charges against Scotland were serious, he had an ambition to become a fireman, a job that required a clean record.

Mr Smith ordered Scotland to pay $3000 to depression initiative beyondblue and formally apologise to the woman and the police to avoid being convicted of the charges.

Carlton footballer Heath Scotland leaves Melbourne Magistrates Court in September 2006

Carlton footballer Heath Scotland leaves Melbourne Magistrates Court in September 2006. Photo: Craig Abraham

A statement from the MFB today said that it wouldn't matter if a conviction was recorded against him or not.

"Under MFB’s prior offences policy, if a person has been found guilty of any crime in the past 10 years, he or she will be automatically disqualified," the statement said.

"If it is a very serious offence, they will never be considered as an MFB firefighter.

"This applies irrespective of whether or not a conviction has been recorded."

When Scotland faced Albury Local Court yesterday over a wild pub brawl in January, the court heard that a conviction would prohibit the 32-year-old from realising his post-AFL dream of joining the Metropolitan Fire Brigade for up to 10 years.

Scotland pleaded guilty to one count of assault causing actual bodily harm arising from the brawl at the Mulwala Ski Club in Yarrawonga. Another charge of common assault was withdrawn yesterday.

NSW magistrate Tony Murray yesterday placed Scotland, Carlton's best-and-fairest winner, on a two-year good behaviour bond without conviction. The footballer had faced a maximum five years' jail.

Three other men involved in the January 29 brawl have been fined and convicted.

The victim, Melbourne tradesman Mark Richard Vickers-Foote, and another Melbourne man, Kyle Brooks, had been involved in a scuffle with Brett Scotland, Heath's brother, before the punch was thrown in January.

Yesterday Andrew McKay, Carlton's general manager of football operations, said the Blues were not in a position to comment or consider penalties until after the hearing.

"It was important to respect Heath's position in relation to this legal matter and as such we were unable to make comment or discuss possible club imposed sanctions until after the court hearing," McKay said.

“The club was disappointed in Heath not adhering to the behaviours that all players of the Carlton Football Club are expected to maintain and thus putting himself in a potentially vulnerable position.

“Following today's court hearing we are now in a position to determine an appropriate penalty.”

McKay said Carlton would discuss a possible penalty with the AFL and AFLPA.

With Scott Spits