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    NRL star Sam Burgess has had his conviction for intimidation and AVO overturned on appeal at Goulburn District Court.

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      Criminal Lawyer Explains Why Sam Burgess’ AVO Appeal Was Allowed

      NRL star Sam Burgess has had his conviction for intimidation and AVO overturned on appeal at Goulburn District Court.

      Mr Burgess had previously been convicted of Intimidation and an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) was made for the protection of Mr Mitch Bourke – his father-in-law.

      The 32-year-old was initially convicted and sentenced to a two-year community corrections order at Moss Vale Local Court.

      However Judge Mark Williams took a different view of the evidence, and dismissed both the charge and the AVO.

      What happened?

      On October 19, 2019 Burgess attended Mitch Hooke’s property in the Southern Highlands. It was there that the parties engaged in a verbal argument.

      The Court heard evidence from Mitch Hooke, Phoebe Burgess and Sam Burgess.

      Mr Hooke gave evidence that Burgess was acting “wild” and “crazy”.

      The former chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia recounted Mr Burgess unleashing a verbal tirade on him, saying, “F*** you, you’re a piece of s***, you’re just like your daughter, you’re a piece of s***”.

      Mr Hooke said he was “terrified” of his former son-in-law. The 64-year-old believed the NRL star was about to hit him.

      “I was resigned to getting hit, I had absolutely no doubt,” Mr Hooke told the court.

      A Triple-0 call made by Phoebe Burgess on the day of the incident was also played in Court.

      Mrs Burgess was heard saying, “Look I’m just a bit shaken up … my husband and I are going through a bit of a separation at the moment … He has threatened and abused my father.”

      Sam Burgess Gives Evidence at Moss Vale Local Court

      The incident occurred during the marriage breakdown between Sam Burgess and his ex-partner Phoebe.

      Burgess gave evidence at Moss Vale Local Court in December 2020, claiming he was “calm but angry” during the argument. Significantly, he said it was Mr Hooke who had followed him out of the house and subjected him to verbal abuse.

      The NRL legend conceded that he had called Mr Hooke a “piece of shit”. However, he claimed that the 64-year-old was the aggressor.

      “He said: ‘You could have had all this’, and I said: ‘All of what? I don’t want that. It’s all fake’. He said: ‘F**k you Sam’. I returned the serve. I said: ‘F**k you Mitch, you’re a piece of shit’.”

      He said Mr Hooke then threatened to “ruin” his career, “if it’s the last thing I do”.

      Sam Burgess’ barrister Phillip Boulten SC, pressed this theme. In his submissions to the Court, he said that the allegations formed part of a concerted campaign to tarnish the NRL great’s reputation.

      “Mitch Hooke and Phoebe Burgess have tried to destroy my client’s career. This case is part of it. And it‘s not going to stop here.”

      Heated Text Messages Tendered

      The Court received copies of text messages between Sam Burgess and Phoebe Burgess after the incident.

      “You’re an absolute low life. How dare you…We are done – at least two people have now seen who you really are you f. k.” she wrote.

      The retired rugby league star responded, writing: “You guys are all the same. Your dad does exactly what you do. None stop, following me around provoking me. It was exactly like you.”

      Sam Burgess Found Guilty of Intimidation

      The South Sydney legend had pleaded not guilty to intimidation and a back-up count of common assault.

      He also contested the AVO taken out against him by Police on behalf of Mr Hooke.

      In finding Mr Burgess guilty of intimidation, Magistrate Robert Rabbidge said that he accepted the evidence of Phoebe Burgess and her father as believable. In contrast, he described Burgess’s evidence as “changeable”.

      The Magistrate said Mr Burgess was a “physically formidable person, far taller, bulkier and fitter and half the age of his father-in-law…An enraged Sam Burgess would be a frightening figure for any Australian.”

      His Honout also upheld the AVO which prevents Mr Burgess from going within 1km of Mitch Hooke’s house.

      The common assault charge was dismissed.

      Sentencing for Intimidation Charges

      Magistrate Rabbidge accepted that the retired league legend was “well thought of” in the community.

      He also found that the intimidation offence was born of a “highly charged emotional state”.

      “I’ve found you guilty and I note you were going through a lot of agony and it wasn’t easy for you. This was a terrifying experience for Phoebe Burgess, and of course her dad in particular.”

      Despite the submissions of Mr Burgess’ criminal lawyers, His Honour said that, “I must record a (criminal) conviction” against Mr Burgess.

      Sam Burgess Reacts to Decision

      After the decision, Sam Burgess stood outside Moss Vale Local Court and spoke to the media briefly saying, “(I’m) confused with the decision, we’ve appealed the decision…I’m not going to say anything further. Thank you.”

      He had attended Court with his mother, Julie.

      Appeal Lodged

      An appeal was lodged and listed at Goulburn District Court. As a conviction appeal, a transcript of the Local Court proceedings was prepared before the appeal could be heard.

      Judge Mark Williams heard the appeal and found that the NRL great’s evidence that the intimidation did not happen should have been considered a reasonable possibility.

      His Honour made mention of the fact that Burgess’s ex-wife Phoebe and her father had spoken to lawyers and a public relations expert before Ms Hooke made a 000 call about the alleged incident.

      The judge agreed with Burgess’ appeal lawyers that the case left open the substantial possibility that Mitch Hooke was fabricating evidence to help in his daughter’s family law case against Burgess.

      “It is a case of the word of Mr Burgess against the word of Mr Hooke,” Judge Williams said before quashing the conviction.

      Amongst the repercussions from the case, the NRL legend had been stood down from roles as a commentator and South Sydney assistant coach in October last year.

      Apprehended Violence Orders

      Apprehended Violence Orders are also known as AVOs. They usually are applied for by Police in the context of domestic violence, however, they can also arise in other contexts such as neighbour disputes.

      On the first Court date, you must indicate whether you agree to the AVO being in effect for the duration of the court case on an ‘interim basis’. If you do not agree, then the Magistrate will have to make a determination as to whether an interim AVO should be in place. This will involve the giving of evidence in chief and cross-examination.

      Whoever is seeking the interim AVO will have to show that it is both “necessary and appropriate in the circumstances”, pursuant to Section 22 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW).

      The second Court date will usually be to confirm that all parties have filed and served statements and evidence. If this has been done, the Court will adjourn your case to a defended hearing. This is also known as a “show cause hearing”.

      At the final hearing, witnesses are required to attend and be cross-examined. You will need experienced AVO lawyers to effectively cross examine the other party’s witnesses. This is often very complex and difficult. There are also rules of evidence as to what questions can be asked and what evidence is admissible.

      Defending an AVO?

      In today’s context, domestic violence charges are very common. There have been a number of recent examples of AVOs being withdrawn and/or dismissed after retaining experienced criminal defence lawyers.

      You can read about some of those cases here. Having the best criminal lawyers for apprehended violence orders will go a long way towards this.

      Call Astor Legal on (02) 7804 2823. Or, you can email

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