A NSW Police detective investigating rape claims against Jack de Belin has admitted lying to a court about legally protected material he accessed on the St George Illawarra footballer’s phone.
However, Detective Senior Constable Shawn Adams, the former lead investigator in the case, denied he then used the confidential messages between the Dragons player and his lawyer to undermine the footballer’s defence against multiple charges of sexual assault.
Under questioning before a jury from Mr de Belin’s defence barrister David Campbell SC, the officer admitted to scrolling through messages from the player’s seized Nokia mobile in December 2019. He denied that he then spoke to Mr de Belin’s accuser about the content of those messages.
Mr Campbell put to Senior Detective Adams: “You were looking through that material … in the hope that there may be in that material something that could undermine the defence of Mr de Belin, correct?”
The Senior Detective replied: “It’s incorrect.”
In a previous court exchange in February, read out to the jury in the NSW District Court in Wollongong on Wednesday, the officer admitted to lying about knowing messages between Mr de Belin and a contact called “Craig lawyer” – revealed to be lawyer Craig Osborne – were to do with the rape case.
“You gave false evidence to his honour under oath, didn’t you?” asked an unnamed lawyer during that previous hearing. The Senior Detective answered: “Yes.”
After reading parts of that exchange, Mr Campbell put to the officer on Wednesday that during that hearing, “you wilfully lied to the court”. The Senior Detective replied: “Yes.”
On Wednesday Senior Detective Adams also denied burying accounts that did not fit the accuser’s story. However, he said he failed to disclose inconsistencies in the woman’s narrative before the trial against Mr de Belin and Shellharbour Sharks footballer Callan Sinclair began.
Mr de Belin, 29, and Mr Sinclair, 23, have both pleaded not guilty to five charges of aggravated sexual assault over allegations they raped a 19-year-old woman in a Wollongong apartment in the early hours of December 9, 2018.
They both claim to have had consensual sex with the woman, whom they met at a nearby bar earlier.
Mr Campbell also questioned the officer about differences that arose between an internal document created when he spoke to the woman on the afternoon of December 9 and her statement that was taken over the following two days.
The court heard the internal police document – which was not included in the brief of evidence but produced to the court later – described the woman’s initial account of going to the apartment because of Mr de Belin and Mr Sinclair wanting to get changed before going to another nightclub.
However, Mr Campbell said the woman’s statement taken on December 10 and 11 outlined the men’s reasons for going to the Gipps Street property as being to charge their mobile phones.
Mr Campbell put to Senior Detective Adams: “You buried it because it didn’t assist the complainant to have her giving inconsistent accounts.”
The officer replied: “I didn’t bury it at all.”
“You denied the jury the opportunity to know that there was this inconsistent utterance of the complainant didn’t you,” Mr Campbell alleged, which the officer denied.
The jury heard the internal document also contained allegations both Mr Sinclair and Mr de Belin forcibly removed the woman’s shorts, whereas the later statement only alleged Mr de Belin had done this.
Mr Campbell described this as a “fundamental shift” in the woman’s evidence, which had not been disclosed.
Asked whether it would have been important to do this, the Senior Detective responded, “in hindsight, yes”.
Under questioning by Mr Campbell, the Senior Detective conceded he had an obligation to disclose inconsistent accounts in the woman’s evidence to both the prosecution and defence team and that he had not done this.
The trial continues.
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