A two-year jail term handed to NRL player Russell Packer for a “cowardly and deplorable” assault has wrong-footed his lawyers.
Packer, 24, appeared stunned as he was sentenced to time behind bars for the drunken assault on a man in Sydney’s CBD.
The Downing Centre Local Court was told on Monday that Packer had been kicked out of the Chambers Hotel at 1.30am on November 23 last year because he was too drunk.
He moved about 20 metres from the Martin Place pub then got into a disagreement with another man.
The argument is said to have started when Packer was accused of stealing two cigarettes from a woman sitting nearby.
Magistrate Greg Grogan told the court on Monday that Packer punched the man in the face, causing him to fall and hit his head on the ground.
Packer punched the man several times as he lay on the ground and then stamped on his head, the court was told, leaving the victim with two fractured facial bones.
Packer pleaded guilty on Monday to assault occasioning actually bodily harm and failing to leave a venue.
Mr Grogan labelled Packer’s behaviour “cowardly and deplorable” and said the result could have been much worse.
“The person fell to the ground and luckily it would appear did not suffer those injuries seen in media reports as of late,” Mr Grogan said.
“There was potential for that, Mr Packer.
“You added fuel to the fire by attacking a man lying motionless on the ground, punching him and then standing up and stomping on his head.”
Mr Grogan said that the public was sick and tired of the behaviour Packer showed that night.
Earlier in the case, Packer’s lawyer tried to distance the assault from those attracting the media’s spotlight.
“This is not a king-hit,” Murugan Thangaraj, SC, said.
In passing sentence, Mr Grogan said that with a 25 per cent discount for entering a guilty plea early, Packer was jailed for a fixed two-year term.
Mr Grogan accepted that the assault was not a king-hit, but said alcohol-related violence was a serious concern for the community.
Mr Thangaraj asked Mr Grogan to reopen the sentence and said he had absolutely no idea that jail time was being considered.
Two corrective services officers led Packer, who seemed confused, out of the courtroom as his legal team scrambled to the court registry to lodge an appeal.
After lodging the appeal, Mr Thangaraj applied for bail for Packer, which the prosecution did not oppose.
The bail application was to resume at 2pm on Monday.