NRL stars’ arrest a parody of proper policing: lawyer

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Latrell Mitchell’s lawyer says the arrest of the South Sydney star and his cousin Jack Wighton outside a Canberra nightclub was “police overkill”.

The NRL duo began their three-day hearing in ACT Magistrates Court on Monday, contesting charges from an alleged early morning fight in February.

Footage of Mitchell’s arrest was played to the court, showing the fullback surrendering onto his knees, before being elbowed, kneed and pushed face-down onto the ground by police.

Mitchell can be heard exclaiming “because I’m a blackfella?”, “be careful please” and “I’m Latrell Mitchell, I didn’t push no one” while being arrested.

 Footage of Mitchell’s arrest was played to the court, showing him surrendering onto his knees. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

His lawyer Jack Pappas argued they weren’t the words of a violent person who was resisting arrest, before suggesting it was “police overkill of the first order”.

Former Canberra five-eighth Wighton allegedly told police to “lock me up with him, you’re f***wits” before he was also arrested, but his lawyer Steve Boland said he was simply defending his distant cousin.

“Mr Wighton heard all of it, saw all of it … it was confronting to see … he’s accused of not turning his back on his cousin and walking into the night,” Mr Boland told the court.

The duo were out celebrating Wighton’s 30th birthday with a group of friends including Raiders teammates Elliott Whitehead and Hudson Young.

Mitchell is charged with affray, fighting in a public place and resisting a territory official, while Wighton, who since the incident has joined his cousin at South Sydney, is charged with fighting in a public place and failing to comply with an exclusion direction.

Much of the first day’s evidence centred around why Wighton had been removed from Canberra nightclub Fiction and subsequently given the exclusion direction, which banned him from the area for six hours.

 Jack Wighton’ is “accused of not turning his back on his cousin and walking into the night”. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

Sergeant David Power said he saw Wighton with clenched fists, an angry face and holding another man by the shirt on a police “walkthrough” of the nightclub.

Mr Boland queried the legality of his client’s “failure to comply” charge, given he had 10 minutes to leave the area.

The former Raider was arrested for failing to comply within that 10-minute window.

The court was played vision from after Wighton left the nightclub, where he and Mitchell were “pushing, shoving and grappling” each other.

A number of people tried to separate the duo, before Mitchell retreated and was subsequently arrested.

Sgt Power, who was not responsible for Mitchell’s “takedown”, insisted the “driving knee” into the Rabbitoh’s back was an approved arrest technique.

He denied he had been able to hear Mitchell crying out in pain, to which the fullback shook his head in the courtroom.

The court heard Mitchell’s arrest was longer than average as the police-issued handcuffs did not fit his large wrists.

Mr Pappas said police had acted inappropriately in their dealings with the men, suggesting it was “a sad parody of what proper police conduct needed to be”.

Other footage from police body-worn cameras will show Mitchell encouraging people filming his arrest to share it on social media, Mr Pappas told the court.

The pair sat next to each other in court and were very friendly with one another. 

They were all smiles when confronted by a media pack when they arrived and left the courthouse on Monday.

The hearing will continue on Tuesday.

13YARN 13 92 76

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