Another NRL Star Accused of Sexual Assault

by Ugur Nedim

Just weeks after NRL star Jarryd Hayne was charged with aggravated sexual assault over an incident on Grand Final night, another NSW State of Origin player has found himself accused of the very same offence.

27-year old St George Dragons player Jack de Belin has been accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year old woman in circumstances of aggravation after the pair met at a Wollongong night club last Saturday night, had drinks, left the venue with a large group of people and then travelled with de Belin and another player in a pedicab to an apartment.

The woman claims she thought the trio were travelling to another venue. She says that upon arriving at the apartment block, the two men told her they were going inside to get changed.

She says she also decided to enter in order to go to the toilet. She claims the pair were naked when she came out of the bathroom, and that both then sexually assaulted her.

Mr de Belin – whose long term partner is 20 weeks pregnant with their first child – has vehemently denied the allegations.

He voluntarily attended Wollongong police station yesterday afternoon, where he was formally arrested and charged.

He was granted police bail and is required to appear in Wollongong Local Court on 12 January 2019.

Aggravated sexual assault in NSW

Aggravated sexual assault is an offence under section 61J of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) (‘the Act’) which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.

It occurs where a person has “sexual intercourse with another person without the consent of the other person and in circumstances of aggravation and who knows that the other person does not consent to the sexual intercourse”.

Sexual intercourse is defined by section 61H of the Act as:

  • sexual connection occasioned by the penetration to any extent of the genitalia (including a surgically constructed vagina) of a female person or the anus of any person by:
  • any part of the body of another person, or
  • any object manipulated by another person, or
  • sexual connection occasioned by the introduction of any part of the penis of a person into the mouth of another person, or
  • cunnilingus, or
  • the continuation of any of the above conduct.

‘Circumstances of aggravation’ are where:

  • at the time of, or immediately before or after, the commission of the offence, the defendant intentionally or recklessly inflicts actual bodily harm on the complainant or any other person who is present or nearby, or
  • at the time of, or immediately before or after, the commission of the offence, the defendant threatens to inflict actual bodily harm on the complainant or any other person who is present or nearby by means of an offensive weapon or instrument, or
  • the defendant is in the company of another person/s, or
  • the complainant is under the age of 16 years, or
  • the complainant is (whether generally or at the time of the commission of the offence) under the authority of the offender, or
  • the complainant has a serious physical disability, or
  • the complainant has a cognitive impairment, or
  • the complainant breaks and enters into any dwelling-house or other building with the intention of committing the offence or any other serious indictable offence, or
  • the complainant deprives the complainant of his or her liberty for a period before or after the commission of the offence.

It appears police are relying upon the being ‘in company’ – in other words, being with another person – as the circumstance of aggravation.

Aggravated sexual assault carries what’s known as a ‘standard non-parole period’ (SNPP), which in this case is 10 years imprisonment. An SNPP is a reference point or guidepost for a sentencing judge when deciding the minimum term (or non-parole period) that a person must spend behind bars before becoming eligible for release from custody on parole.

The issue of consent

To establish Mr de Belin’s guilt, the prosecution will need to prove that sexual intercourse took place and that the complainant did not consent to the intercourse.

Section 61HA (now superseded by section 61HE) of the Act provides that consent is considered to have been given in the context of sexual assault cases where a person “freely and voluntarily agrees to the sexual intercourse.”

To establish a lack of consent, the prosecution must first prove the complainant did not consent.

It must then prove that the defendant knew the complainant did not consent.

This second requirement is established where the prosecution proves that the defendant:

  • knew the complainant was not consenting, or
  • was reckless as to whether the complainant was consenting, or
  • had no reasonable grounds to believe the complainant was consenting.

In making such a finding, the court must have regard to all of the circumstances of the case including any steps taken by the defendant to ascertain whether the complainant was consenting, but it must not consider any self-induced intoxication by the defendant.

In addition to this, the law provides that a person cannot consent to sexual intercourse where he or she:

  • does not have the capacity to consent due to their age or cognitive incapacity, or
  • does not have the opportunity to consent as they are unconscious or asleep, or
  • consents because of threats of force or terror, or
  • is unlawfully detained.

The law also provides that a person does not consent if under a mistaken belief that:

  • he or she is married to the defendant, or
  • that the sexual intercourse is for health or hygienic purposes.

The law also presently provides that the grounds on which it may be established that a complainant does not consent to sexual intercourse include where he or she:

  • was substantially affected by drugs or alcohol,
  • was subjected to intimidatory or coercive conduct, or another threat, that did not involve force,
  • was taken advantage of through an abuse of authority or trust.

The law also makes it explicitly clear that a complainant who does not offer physical resistance is not necessarily consenting.

Accused of a sexual offence?

If you or a loved-one are being accused of a serious criminal offence, call us anytime on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a free first conference at one of our offices across the Sydney metropolitan area, in Wollongong or in Newcastle.

If you can’t make it to one of our offices, we are able to arrange conferences over the phone or by way of Skype.

If your loved-one is in custody, we can arrange a conference at the correctional centre or by way of audio-visual link.

Author

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with over 20 years of experience in criminal defence. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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