Why de Belin shouldn’t be allowed to play while justice takes its course
By Peter FitzSimons
February 13, 2019
Say the St George Illawarra Jack de Belin was on tour with the Kangaroos. Say he was arrested, and charged, with aggravated sexual assault as part of what was alleged to be a gang-rape.
Here is the question: would he stay on tour, continue to wear the green and gold, and play in forthcoming matches? Or would he be immediately stood down from the team, and sent home at the first legal opportunity?
Serious accusations: Jack de Belin is charged with aggravated sexual assault in company.CREDIT:ADAM MCLEAN
I know the answer and so do you.
Of course, in that situation, he would be stood down, and sent home. Why?
Simply because if he was arrested on tour, and charged, and was the feature name in endless lurid headlines, the view would be taken – without pre-judging his guilt or innocence – that he was no longer fit to wear the mighty Kangaroo jersey. The Kangaroos management wouldn’t have to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he did the crime, only have to establish to their own satisfaction that he had brought the game and their team into disrepute – and they would leave it to the law itself to judge his guilt or innocence of the crime.
So why will de Belin be playing for the Dragons for the first five rounds? Why is a different standard applied to a club team, than for the national team? With the possible exception of the Rabbitohs green and red, there is no prouder jersey in the league than the Dragons’ red V. And yet not only does the club want a man charged with the most appalling things to wear its jersey, but they apparently have the backing of the NRL which so recently has been proclaiming its hard line against any footballer who is even alleged to acts violently towards a woman. Ben Barba was simply accused of it and, with no police charges, was banned for all time within two days.
And yes, of course, it is for the law to judge the de Belin’s guilt or innocence of the criminal charges he is facing, and he is indeed innocent until proved guilty of that charge, but we’ll get to that.
To recap, a fortnight before Christmas last year it is alleged that de Belin left his pregnant wife at home and met a young woman at a Wollongong nightclub where they danced as part of a large group before – in the company of de Belin’s 21 year old friend Callan Sinclair – getting a taxi to the apartment of de Belin’s cousin.
Here, the allegation is that the 106 kilogram footballer forced himself on the woman half his size, and according to the police fact sheet “moved himself between her legs, lent down and put his right hand around her throat and [his] right forearm pinned the upper left side off her body.”
The allegation is that he then raped her, while Sinclair watched, before – by her account to the police – the latter removed his clothes and accepted de Belin’s invitation to “come have a go”.
At which point, they allegedly jointly raped her, until Sinclair had had enough and de Belin continued, as the Herald reported “at times putting his hand around her throat, making it hard for her to breathe.
I know. It is quite shocking to read and not the usual thing you find in a sports column. But I include the detail to make the point – these allegations are on the very grave end of the scale.
And yet somehow, the Dragons are insistent that a man facing charges of that gravity should wear their jersey?
On the issue of a man being innocent until proven guilty of criminal charges, I entirely agree. And none of this is to pre-judge de Belin in any way whatsoever. He may be guilty or innocent and it will be entirely a matter for the law to judge.
But again, I note, when it comes to participating in a football game, there is a difference in standards to be applied. The standard required to find a man guilty of a crime that will put him in prison is “beyond reasonable doubt,” and rightly so.
Standards: Should de Belin wear the Red V while charged with a serious crime?CREDIT:AAP
But whether or not you have “brought the game into disrepute,” is practically ipso facto with the ugly headlines you have created.
In what other field in the public domain, would someone facing those charges turn up for work and take their place with the blessing of their employer?
In politics? Media? Anywhere in the world of entertainment? Any of the financial industry, where your job was dealing with the public and everyone knew the gravity of charges against your name?
No. In all of those cases, and most other cases, you would either stand down voluntarily, or be stood down, and given the chance to clear your name, to fight the charges. But in none of them would it be business as usual.
So why does it happen in rugby league? I have no clue.
The Dragons are making a terrible error of judgement here, as is the NRL by allowing it. They cannot be serious about leaving behind the litany of appalling behaviour towards women, by allowing this.
In my view they need to move to the position whereby they establish a principle: "if you are charged by the police with a serious crime, you will be stood down from playing, until such times as the legal process is completed. This is not to prejudge guilt or innocence, it is simply to observe the norm, and it is automatic."
And before you send your angry emails about the need to not interfere in any way with the workings of the law, tell me how Ben Barba fits into that? Did you protest at his dismissal from the Cowboys, and banning for life from the NRL, on much lesser charges, even though police lay no charges?
I repeat: Barba was accused of something that attracted no police charges but will never play again.
De Belin is accused of aggravated sexual assault, has been charged by police, and before the courts – but will play for at least the first five rounds.
What is wrong with this picture?
The NRL. It has not thought its way through this.
https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nrl/why-de ... 50xlb.html