Prosecutors are considering an extraordinary appeal against a judge’s decision to clear retired NRL star Sam Burgess of intimidating his former father-in-law Mitchell Hooke.
The New South Wales Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has indicated it is looking at a rare legal move which could send the Burgess case back to court.
Burgess, who has always maintained his innocence, believed the matter was resolved and began rebuilding his life after the conviction was finally overturned last month.
The 32-year-old has recently been training with bodybuilding pastor Rob Quatro on Queensland’s Gold Coast where he attended a Pentecostal church service.
Burgess has been exploring his spirituality and told friends he is ‘trying to better himself with a few things’ as he makes changes in his life including giving up alcohol.
Prosecutors are considering an extraordinary appeal against a judge’s decision to clear retired NRL star Sam Burgess (pictured) of intimidating his former father-in-law Mitchell Hooke. The DPP has indicated it is looking at a rare legal move which could send the case back to court
Burgess was found guilty in February of intimidating Mitchell Hooke (pictured) during a heated clash in the aftermath of his messy break-up with wife Phoebe. District Court Judge Mark Williams overturned that decision after a hearing in Goulburn last month
Burgess, pictured with ex-wife Phoebe, began rebuilding his life after the conviction was finally overturned last month. The 32-year-old has recently been training with bodybuilding pastor Rob Quatro on the Gold Coast where he attended a Pentecostal church service
The former Souths captain was found guilty in February of intimidating Mr Hooke during a heated clash in the aftermath of his messy break-up with wife Phoebe.
District Court Judge Mark Williams overturned that decision by Moss Vale Local Court magistrate Rob Rabbidge after a hearing in Goulburn last month.
‘He is relieved,’ Burgess’s lawyer Bryan Wrench said outside court at the time.
‘This is the judgment he deserves. He never wanted this fight, but he had to fight to clear his name. He is innocent and finally he has been vindicated.’
If the DPP challenged the ruling it could raise a question of law with Judge Williams and ask him to send the matter to the Court of Criminal Appeal for consideration.
It could also potentially directly ask the Court of Appeal for a judicial review. Either move would be highly unusual and fought strongly by Burgess.
Mitchell Hooke ran the Minerals Council of Australia. He is pictured with daughters Phoebe (centre) and Harriet after being made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2016. All three gave evidence in the intimidation case against Burgess
District Court Judge Mark Williams said the magistrate who originally heard the intimidation case spoke ‘in glowing terms’ of the Hooke family as ‘fine people’ and seemed to give no weight to ‘the undoubted good character’ of Burgess, who is pictured with ex-wife Phoebe
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting there was any error of law in Judge Williams’s findings. Comment was being sought from the DPP.
Judge Williams had accepted Burgess could have been telling the truth all along when he denied having threatened retired businessman Mr Hooke.
‘My firm view upon reading the evidence is that the Crown case was not established beyond reasonable doubt,’ Judge Williams ruled.
Judge Williams found that inconsistencies in Mr Hooke’s version of events ‘leaves open the real and substantial possibility he was fabricating his evidence’.
‘This was a case of the word of Burgess against the word of Hooke,’ Judge Williams said.
He noted the onus was always on the Crown to prove beyond reasonable doubt that an offence had occurred and Burgess’s version of events ‘was, at least, reasonably possible’.
Burgess’s ex-wife Phoebe and his father-in-law Mitchell Hooke gave statements about Burgess to a journalist they both knew which were used to publish stories accusing him of domestic abuse and wild partying. The three are pictured together in happier times
Burgess claimed Mr Hooke had told him during the showdown: ‘I’m going to destroy you if it’s the last thing I do. I’m going to destroy you and your career.’
Judge Williams said the magistrate who originally heard the case spoke ‘in glowing terms’ of the Hooke family as ‘fine people’ and seemed to give no weight to ‘the undoubted good character’ of Burgess.
Burgess’s barrister Phillip Boulten, SC, had described the case as ‘he said, he said’, and said the Hooke family’s evidence had been wrongly preferred over that of his client.
‘Basically it was “these are good and decent people and my client’s a rugby league player who could be ferocious”,’ Mr Boulten told the court.
‘The learned magistrate put little or no store in the fact that the allegation was put in the context of an unhappy afternoon with fraught emotions on both sides.’
Mr Rabbidge had accepted the evidence of Mr Hooke that Burgess threatened him by saying, ‘I’m going to get you’, at the Hooke family home in the Southern Highlands on October 19, 2019.
‘An enraged, angry Sam Burgess would indeed be a frightening figure to most Australians,’ Mr Rabbidge had said.
Burgess always denied threatening Mr Hooke at the Hooke family estate (pictured) where he married Phoebe in 2015. Burgess was at the house on October 19, 2019, to visit his two young children who had been living with their mother since their parents split two weeks earlier
Mr Boulten told Judge Williams that Burgess had seemingly been criticised for being a tall, well-built footballer who might cause someone to be apprehensive in certain circumstances.
Mr Rabbidge had sentenced Burgess to a two-year community correction order and imposed a two-year apprehended violence order to protect Mr Hooke. Both were set aside by Judge Williams.
Mr Rabbidge had described Mr Hooke, a former CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, as an ‘impressive’ and ‘believable’ witness, while rejecting much of Burgess’s testimony.
Mr Rabbidge said Mr Hooke had clearly been ‘terrified’ and was pale, shaken and unsteady on his feet after the incident at the Hooke family’s Glenquarry estate outside Bowral.
Burgess’s ex-wife Phoebe leaves court after admitting to giving damaging documents about her ex-husband to The Australian newspaper. She denied she did so to destroy his reputation
He had found all the evidence supported Mr Hooke having suffered ‘severe trauma’ rather than just being involved in an argument as Burgess had alleged.
Mr Rabbidge also rejected the suggestion Mr Hooke had made a false complaint to police as part of an orchestrated campaign to destroy Burgess and his career.
Mr Hooke and Phoebe admitted co-operating with a reporter they both knew who in October last year wrote stories accusing Burgess of domestic abuse and wild partying.
Judge Williams noted those stories appeared when the intimidation charge had already been listed for hearing and said Mr Hooke and his daughter could have avoided helping to craft them.
‘Surely a more prudent course would have been… to say no, we don’t want to participate in any media articles now because there’s a hearing coming up next months and we shouldn’t be thrashing this out in the media.’
Burgess was sentenced to a two-year community corrections order and made the subject of a two-year apprehended violence order. A District Court judge overturned those decisions and set them aside on March 19. Burgess is pictured on the day he married Phoebe Hooke
Phoebe has said she will keep using the Burgess surname because that is what her children are called. She has continued to post images to Instagram of her apparently idyllic lifestyle
While Burgess was accused of intimidating Mr Hooke, there was never any allegation of actual physical violence.
Judge Williams said: ‘One would have thought if he was going to hit him he wouldn’t have given him any warning. He’d have just hit him.’
Both Mr Hooke and Phoebe had spoken to lawyers before they made statements to police about the Glenquarry incident. Phoebe spoke to her solicitor even before making a Triple Zero call and Mr Hooke had also spoken to a public relations expert.
Mr Rabbidge said that was ‘not surprising or necessarily nefarious’.
Burgess married Phoebe at Daffodil Downs in December 2015 and they have two children, four-year-old Poppy, and Billy, who turned two in December.
The couple separated in late 2018 before rekindling their relationship by April 2019. They split permanently on October 2 that year and have since divorced.
Burgess will face Moss Vale Local Court in May after allegedly being detected driving with cocaine in his system while on his way to pick up his children from Bowral on February 22.
He was allegedly unlicensed while behind the wheel of his BMW X5 which was unregistered due to his failure to pay $1,200 in parking and traffic fines.
Sam and Phoebe’s fiery exchange
Sam and Phoebe Burgess exchanged a series of texts on October 19, 2019, before and after he was accused of intimidating her father:
11.48am: Hi Phoebe, I’m down in Bowral. Just thought I’d offer to come earlier when poppy wakes up so you’re not waiting for me for her chores and then I could still get my time with the kids. Thanks. (Sam)
11.49am: Both asleep now. 2pm is still fine. I’ll leave you to it today. Phoebe. (Phoebe)
11.49am: Great (S)
4.04pm: Let me know when you’ve left. (P)
4.05pm: I’m not leaving both kids with your dad. (S)
4.05pm: Excuse me. (P)
4.05pm: I will be home in 5 minutes when you have left. (P)
4.06pm: I am on my way now. (P)
4.06pm: Harriet is also there (P)
4.06pm: Ok I’ll wait until you get home (S)
4.06pm: Nobody in the house – want me to leave the kids in the living room (S)
4.07pm: No, dad will happily sit with them until I am home. ALl good. He’s in his office (P)
4.07pm: Just knock, he will happily come out and I am on the road. (P)
4.07pm: I’ll just wait. No problem. (S)
4.07pm: Please head off, I am on my way;, honestly I will send a pic when I have arrived home. I am not up to seeing you today, please understand. (P)
4.21pm: Really should stick to your plan Phoebe. That didn’t work (S)
4.22pm: Don’t you ever message me again (P)
4:22pm: You’re still not home. Billy crawling out of the front door and poppy as I left (S)
4.22pm: Great parenting (S)
4.22pm I’m here (P)
4.29pm: Harriet witnessed that – you are a pig. I was waiting in the road to get back to my babies. You’re an absolute low life. How dare you. we are done – at least 2 people have now seen who you really are you f*** (P)
4.32pm: You guys are all the same. Your dad does exactly what you do. None stop, followed me around provoking me. It was exactly like you. Harriet had to come and stop your dad. So bad. The kids were crawling out of the house. I took photos. They were left unattended by your dad (S)