Lawyer Paul McGirr warns there could be further consequences in the de Belin case.
Lawyer Paul McGirr warns there could be further consequences in the de Belin case.

De Belin could sue NRL if suspended over sex charge

A leading Sydney criminal lawyer has urged St George Illawarra forward Jack de Belin to explore civil action against the NRL should the governing body stand him down from playing.

Paul McGirr, from McGirr Lawyers, told The Daily Telegraph pre-emptive action against de Belin before he fronted court on a sexual assault charge was "diverting the criminal justice system" and could "break his career."

The ARL Commission is expected to announce on Thursday that players would now be stood down on full pay if they were charged with serious offences.

 

For de Belin, who has pleaded not guilty and had his case adjourned until April 17, McGirr said prospective sponsors wouldn't "touch him with a barge pole".

McGirr also stressed the courts have allowed de Belin bail "so they're satisfied he is right to be in the community."

"If (the NRL) make that call, to stand him down without any court finding him guilty of any conduct, I would explore civil action against the NRL," McGirr told The Daily Telegraph.

"If he's not playing football, his earning capacity reduces. The thing with rugby league is that you're on show in relation to your capacity to earn more money. He wouldn't be able to play.

"Third parties, sponsorships, endorsements, everything. No one would want to touch him with a barge pole, all on the basis of him being punished without any finding from any court.

"In essence, it could break his career. What about later on in his life?"

 

Lawyer Paul McGirr warns there could be further consequences.
Lawyer Paul McGirr warns there could be further consequences.

 

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg and ARLC chairman Peter Beattie have been canvassing the opinions of club chairmen, legal eagles and other sports to determine their position in terms of standing down players before court.

"I've done hundreds of serious offences cases where people have actually been found not guilty," McGirr said.

"You're diverting the criminal justice system. There is a process where, if you're charged, it doesn't mean you have done it and that you're entitled to test the evidence and allegations, which sometimes turn out to be false.

"The attitude is then 'Ah, well, he didn't do it, welcome back'."

 

Beattie and Greenberg have to find the right answer for the game. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
Beattie and Greenberg have to find the right answer for the game. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

 

The de Belin court case could run for 18 months. If he's found not guilty, it could leave him out of the game until late 2020.

"So it has nothing to do with his (de Belin) conduct of going out, drinking, partying, or anything else. It's the fact an allegation has been made - if that's what they've taken their action over, I don't agree with it," McGirr said.

"People are innocent unless proven guilty. Some people say 'until' - it's not until. It's innocent unless you are proven guilty.

"The (NRL) are obviously being pressured and I've heard some commentators talking about it in a way that 'we're not going to tolerate violence against women'.

"That in itself gives the feeling they have already made up their mind. Certainly I don't condone violence on women in any way whatsoever. But just because someone makes an allegation or someone is charged, that does not mean they are guilt of it.

"Let's wait and see what the court system does. What they're doing by standing him down is basically saying we don't condone violence against women. I dare say de Belin doesn't condone violence against women."

Before the ARL Commission meeting on Thursday, commissioners will hold their annual general meeting. Club chairmen will be invited to attend but will not vote on the player behaviour issue.

The commission will also discuss the alleged salary cap indiscretions of Cronulla and Wests Tigers. All matters will be debated but final conclusions may not be reached at tomorrow's meetings.