Exiled NRL star Blake Ferguson was again found guilty of groping a woman during a boozy night out in southern Sydney but his conviction will not be recorded, a Sydney court has heard.
The 24-year-old was found guilty in December last year of indecently assaulting the woman during a night out at Cronulla's 2230 Bar, where he was celebrating his NSW Origin selection with teammate Josh Dugan. He was sacked from the Canberra Raiders and has spent the 2014 season in limbo without a playing contract while recuperating from ankle surgery.
Ferguson failed to convince a judge he was innocent during a court appeal on Thursday but he will walk away with a clean criminal record after he was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond.
Judge Michael Finnane said the winger had suffered enough punishment by being prevented from playing rugby league and took into account his "Aboriginality" and the fact he had a tough childhood.
The fallen star has been ordered to undergo alcohol counselling and is not allowed to enter any licensed premises for a year. "Alcohol is your enemy, not your friend," Judge Finnane said.
Ferguson argued during his appeal before the Downing Centre District Court this week that he put his hand up the dress of the victim at a Cronulla bar thinking it was a woman he had "hooked up with" earlier. His barrister Greg James, QC, argued his client thought his advances would have been welcomed.
But Judge Finnane said that even if he found Ferguson had mistaken the victim for another woman, nothing gave him the right to touch the victim without asking.
"It may well be that he turned around [in the bar] and thought it was the same girl," Judge Finnane said. "But he had no right whatsoever to put his hands under her dress without even asking. Without raising with her ... anything. No man is entitled without any request whatsoever to go round and touch a woman."
Grainy security footage from inside the bar showed Ferguson approach the victim, who later pushed him and slapped him across the face.
The court heard much argument about whether he grabbed her on the vagina or touched her on the upper inner thigh.
"I'm not prepared to say he touched her on the vagina," Judge Finnane said. "But I am prepared to say he touched her on the inner thigh and, in my opinion, touching any woman under a dress in that area is to commit an act which ordinary people would find the charge proven. It is an intended assault."
Ferguson is working for the Sydney Roosters in an off-field capacity and the club could still apply to have him registered to an NRL contract this year, although it is unlikely to do so because he is unlikely to be fit to play until the start of the 2015 premiership.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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