Evidence that cleared NRL star of a charge

Two different accounts of the same moment led a jury to decide NRL star Jack de Belin was not guilty of a specific sexual act. WARNING: GRAPHIC

A quick apology and request for a young woman to “help a brother out” helped convince a jury that suspended NRL star Jack de Belin was not guilty of a specific act of sexual assault.

The St George Illawarra Dragons forward and his friend Callan Sinclair were on Monday cleared of one of the five charges they each faced during their second District Court trial in six months.

By the end of the day, however, the jury of eight men and four women were dismissed after declaring they could not reach a verdict on the remaining charges.

It was alleged at trial they sexually assaulted a woman, then 19, in the early hours of December 9, 2018 after meeting her on the dancefloor of Wollongong nightclub Mr Crown.

The men claim the threesome that ensued at a nearby unit was wholly consensual, and deny the woman’s claims she was raped orally, vaginally and anally.

If the men do face a third trial they will no longer have to answer to allegations about the latter form of sex, after a jury delivered a unanimous not guilty verdict related to it.

Despite the fundamental difference in their overall stories, the woman and Mr de Belin’s evidence of that exact moment included a similar thread of apology.

The court heard it happened after they moved from a bed to a desk, and while Mr Sinclair had left the room.

On her evidence, the woman claims Mr de Belin picked her up and carried her to the next piece of furniture without pulling out of her body.

She was facing the footballer with her back to the wall when she claims he turned her legs to the side and deliberately tried to penetrate her other orifice.

“And that’s when I screamed ‘stop’ because it really hurt,” she told the court.

Asked by crown prosecutor David Scully what happened next, she replied: “He took it out.”

“Did he say anything?” Mr Scully continued.

“I think he said ‘sorry’,” she responded.

On the stand Mr de Belin, 30, said he and the woman walked together to the desk where she jumped up to rest herself against it.

The former State of Origin representative said they continued to have sex, claiming she was “enjoying it” and “moaning” when he “accidentally prodded my penis inside … the wrong hole”.

“I could tell she grimaced and it wasn’t pleasant and said ‘oh’. I said ‘sorry’,” he told the court.

He said “I asked her if she could help a brother out” and she guided him from there before the sex resumed.

Mr Sinclair wasn’t in the room at the time, having on his words suffered “erectile dysfunction” before leaving the bedroom for a shower.

But he claims while in the bathroom he heard the woman “moaning” and “saying yes” before coming back into the bedroom to see her on top of Mr de Belin on the bed.

Even though he wasn’t directly involved, Mr Sinclair, now 24, was also charged with the anal penetration offence under what is called a joint criminal enterprise.

In general terms it means an agreement – even if unspoken – to commit a crime together with another person.

The prosecution alleged that was triggered when the Shell Cove man began having sex with the woman after Mr de Belin initiated the alleged assault.

Prosecutors claim he knew she was not consenting so he was equally liable for what happened after.

Both men vigorously denied the allegations.

In his opening address, Mr Scully told the jury it was open to them to find Mr Sinclair not guilty of the anal offence if they believed his involvement had ceased when he left the room.

“If you say they’re no longer in company at that point then the verdict for Mr Sinclair is not guilty,” he said.

He said, however, they could still find Mr de Belin guilty by convicting him instead of an alternative sexual assault charge that did not include the “in company” element.

Ultimately, after a two-and-a-half week trial including five days of deliberation, the jury found both men not guilty of the charge.

Mr de Belin and Mr Sinclair were both trialled on five charges of aggravated sexual intercourse without consent in company.

They faced one individual charge each and were jointly charged with four of the counts, all of which related to distinct and specific acts during the incident.

Mr Scully told the jury at the end of the trial Mr de Belin was “leading the way” in the bedroom having initiated the alleged rape, while Mr Sinclair made the “wrong choice” to join in.

Both men still have the prospect of their four outstanding charges going to trial for a third time, and should find out on May 28.

For Mr de Belin it also halts any potential return to the NRL, with rugby league’s governing body holding firm on ruling he cannot play until cleared of all remaining charges or they are dropped.

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