Newcastle Knight pleads guilty
NRL player Russell Packer arrives at Downing Centre Local Court before pleading guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm on Monday morning. Nine News.PT0M19S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-30cvo 620 349 January 6, 2014
Newcastle Knight rugby league player Russell Packer has been jailed for two years for assault, dismaying the Kiwi enforcer and prompting his lawyers to lodge an immediate appeal.
Packer looked to his supporters, which included his partner and a number of Knights officials, in distress before he was led away in handcuffs from a Downing Centre Local Court on Monday.
You added fuel to the fire by attacking a man lying motionless on the ground, punching him and then standing up and stomping on his head
Earlier Packer, 24, pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm after he bashed a man during a booze-fuelled night last year, with the court hearing he had stomped on his victim's face as the man lay motionless in Martin Place in Sydney's CBD.
Russell Packer arrives at Downing Centre Local Court on Monday morning. Photo: Nick Moir
Packer was refused bail until his appeal is heard in February.
His barrister, Murugan Thangaraj SC, said he had no idea that magistrate Greg Grogan was even contemplating a jail sentence.
Mr Grogan labelled Packer's behaviour "cowardly and deplorable" and said the result could have been much worse.
Packer was signed from the New Zealand Warriors but has yet to play for the Newcastle Knights. Photo: Simone de Peak
Packer was drunk when he carried out the attack over a dispute about two cigarettes at about 1.30am on November 29. The victim suffered two fractured bones.
"The person fell to the ground and luckily it would appear did not suffer those injuries seen in media reports as of late," Mr Grogan said.
"There was potential for that, Mr Packer.
"You added fuel to the fire by attacking a man lying motionless on the ground, punching him and then standing up and stomping on his head."
Mr Grogan said that the public was sick and tired of the behaviour Packer showed that night.
Earlier in the case, Packer's lawyer tried to distance the assault from those attracting the media's spotlight.
"This is not a king-hit," Murugan Thangaraj, SC, said.
In passing sentence, Mr Grogan said that, with a 25 per cent discount for entering a guilty plea early, Packer was jailed for a fixed two-year term.
Mr Grogan accepted that the assault was not a king hit, but said alcohol-related violence was a serious concern for the community.
Mr Thangaraj asked Mr Grogan to reopen the sentence and said he had absolutely no idea that jail time was being considered.
Two Corrective Services officers led Packer, who seemed confused, out of the courtroom as his legal team scrambled to the court registry to lodge an appeal.
Packer kissed his emotional partner as he was placed in handcuffs and led out of the court.
After lodging the appeal, Mr Thangaraj applied for bail for Packer, which was refused at a further hearing on Monday afternoon. The appeal against the severity of the sentence has been lodged for February 11.
Packer, a New Zealand international, played 110 games in six seasons for the New Zealand Warriors before signing for Newcastle.
The court heard that Packer's contract with the Knights had not been registered by the NRL, pending an investigation, and that the player and his club would have to wait to see how the NRL reacts to the offence.
Packer also pleaded guilty to failing to quit a licensed premises after he was ordered to leave a Sydney nightspot due to his intoxication and then sat on a chair 20 metres from the premises instead of moving at least 50 metres away.
A Newcastle Knights spokeswoman said the club would issue a statement on the matter.
- The Newcastle Herald and AAP