Tom Starling weighs up lawsuit against NSW Police after charges thrown out

The Canberra Raiders hooker has had to contend with court proceedings for the last two years alongside his NRL career.

Tom Starling is pictured with cuts to his face after the December 2020 brawl on the left, and playing for the Canberra Raiders on the right.
Tom Starling has had charges of hindering police dismissed following a pub brawl in December 2020. Pictures: Twitter/Getty Images

Canberra Raiders hooker Tom Starling is considering civil action against NSW Police after charges against he, his two brother and a friend relating to a pub brawl in 2020 were dropped on Friday. Starling was a central figure as the four men were charged with hindering police in the execution of duty following a brawl at the Shady Palms Hotel in Avoca Beach in December 2020.

Starling had maintained his innocence throughout, with magistrate Daniel Covington dismissing the charge against the 24-year-old on Friday after an 11-day hearing. The court viewed CCTV evidence which showed police officers repeatedly punching Starling in the face.

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The brawl was reportedly kicked off when Jackson Starling pushed hotel security guard Khan Morris, who had allegedly insulted Starling's mother. The court heard evidence from all three brothers describing an overreaction from police responding to the incident.

Magistrate Covington noted an officer had delivered a 'barrage of punches' to Starling's face, dismissing the charges after reaching the conclusion that officers were not 'acting in execution of their duty'. Speaking outside of court on Friday, Starling's lawyer Samar Singh-Panwar raised the possibility of a civil against against NSW Police as a result of the verdict.

“That (a lawsuit) is something that’s being considered and there’s certainly potential for a civil action case against NSW Police,” Mr Singh-Panwar said outside court. "The magistrate found the police weren’t acting in the execution of their duties, but more a street fight, which is something we’ve maintained from the outset.”

Tom Starling cleared of charges following 2020 pub brawl

Police were seen in CCTV footage repeatedly striking Starling in the head, a scene that Mr Covington described as a "free for all". "One that is more typically seen in a street fight as opposed to officers in their duty," Mr Covington told Downing Centre Local Court on Friday.

"Clearly what occurred was nothing other than Tom being assaulted himself."

Senior Constable Daniel Drew also admitted to the court that he had "no reason to punch" Starling, the judge said. Mr Covington acknowledged Josh was acting in self-defence of his brother.

Josh, who was handcuffed, allegedly kicked and punched police officers while Jackson was held back by another police officer, having tried to intervene. Starling was held back and could not defend himself, according to Mr Covington.

The brothers had been celebrating a friend's 21st that night. The 25-year-old allegedly left the stage area when he witnessed police escort Josh outside of the venue. Mr Covington found the youngest Starling guilty of common assault against Mr Morris and resisting police.

Josh Starling was sentenced to an 18-month conditional release order without conviction. Their friend Jesse Byrne was also involved but assault and hindering charges against him were dismissed.

with AAP

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