'Dishonest' police accusation heard in Jack de Belin rape case

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read
St. George Illawarra Dragons rugby league player Jack de Belin leaves the Wollongong District Court. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
St. George Illawarra Dragons rugby league player Jack de Belin leaves the Wollongong District Court. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

Being seen in a car with the "very prominent" and partnered-up Jack de Belin may have led a teenager to "stop the rumour mill" and allege rape, the NRL player's lawyer has suggested.

The St George Illawarra forward, 29, and his friend, Callan Sinclair, 23, have pleaded not guilty to five counts of aggravated sexual assault, saying the early-morning encounter in a North Wollongong unit in December 2018 was consensual.

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Barrister David Campbell SC on Wednesday drew attention to the trio being seen by an acquaintance of Sinclair and the woman in a car shortly after leaving the unit.

De Belin testified the woman, then 19, twice raised the footballer's girlfriend during the night, leading him to reassure her each time.

The woman later messaged the acquaintance: "The guys you saw me with just f***ing abused me sexually".

"Could she then, in an attempt to put the bushfire out or, as it were, stop the rumour mill suddenly say I was sexually abused by these guys?" Mr Campbell asked the Wollongong District Court jury during closing submissions.

"We don't have to establish reasons and sometimes you can't, but does that accord with your common sense and human experience?"

Lawyer defends De Belin’s character

The footballer was a man of good character but had clearly let his guard down during the night of the Wollongong pub crawl, Mr Campbell said.

"He conducted himself in a way that was morally wrong. He knows that. He cheated on his partner. He knows that. He should have been more respectful. He knows that," Mr Campbell said.

"While that which happened is not something to be praised, it certainly does not ... involve any criminal conduct on the part of either Mr de Belin or Mr Sinclair."

Prosecutor David Scully has described the woman's evidence as "compelling", but Mr Campbell said there were dozens of inconsistencies and falsities.

"While some instances taken alone are of very great significance and while some others taken alone are of much lesser import, (it) leads to the irresistible conclusion that the complainant's evidence is unreliable," he said.

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had told the court she didn't know the trio were going to the unit after leaving CBD bar Mr Crown - believing instead they were headed to Fever Nightclub.

That evidence was "plainly false, and false to her knowledge", Mr Campbell said.

The conduct of the lead detective should also be scrutinised by jurors, having put de Belin and Sinclair in a situation of "significant prejudice and disadvantage and therefore prejudice", Mr Campbell said.

Jack De Belin of the Dragons passes during the NRL Elimination Final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Suncorp Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia.
Jack De Belin of the Dragons passes during the NRL Elimination Final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Suncorp Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

When first interviewing the complainant, the detective didn't usher her friend from the room, "polluting any subsequent account" that friend may later give.

The officer wilfully lied on oath about taking notes in that first interview - notes that had never been provided to the prosecution, defence or jury, Mr Campbell said.

"His conduct as to this was not only improper but, in our submission, was also dishonest," the footballer's barrister said.

"He well knew whatever was said in that room differed from the end product."

Mr Scully, the crown prosecutor, earlier characterised any attack on the detective as a "red herring".

The jury will begin deliberations after Judge Andrew Haesler gives final directions on Wednesday afternoon. The court will not sit on Friday.

"When you are out on verdict, you should not feel you are being rushed to verdict," the judge told jurors on Wednesday morning.

"There is no magic time a juror takes to reach a verdict ... you will have as long as you need."