Prison sentence harsh, says Packer's mentor

BEN STANLEY AND ROBERT DILLON
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2014
Russell Packer
Fairfax Australia
JAILED: Russell Packer arriving at court.

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Russell Packer's long-time mentor David Lomax has labelled the former Kiwis international's two-year prison sentence for assault as harsh, as well as describing the 24-year-old's actions "completely out of character".

And Newcastle Knights officials have resisted a public outcry to immediately sack Packer, insisting they have a "duty of care" to the jailed prop and his family.

Packer received the sentence on Monday after pleading guilty to an assault charge on Enoka Time outside a Sydney CBD bar last November.

The former Warriors prop, who played two tests for New Zealand in 2011, was to begin a four-year contract with the Knights this season.

Lomax, who has just returned from a holiday to Australia, discovered Packer when he was a 15-year-old rugby union prop training with the Levin Lions league team in 2005 - and was shocked by the length of the sentence.

"It seems a bit harsh," Lomax said.

"That's not to condone what happened - but when I was over there, there was a lot of media about some stuff that has been happening around Kings Cross in Sydney, and guys getting knocked over. I don't know whether this is a reaction, and an example . . . it's hard to know. It seems pretty harsh. He's a professional sportsman, his career is in tatters and he's going to prison. It was pretty devastating news when I heard about it."

The Knights released a statement yesterday that declared no decision would be made on Packer's future until after he had appealed against his conviction for bashing Time unconscious in a drunken fury and stomping on his head, causing facial fractures.

"Russell arrived in Newcastle prior to the official start of pre-season, didn't attend a formal training session or a function and hasn't played a game for our club," Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett said.

"Russell acted independent of the club, our players, our staff, on the night of the incident. Russell has acted inappropriately, no-one is arguing that fact, however we as a club still believe we have a duty of care to Russell and his family. Once the legal process is concluded, we will make a decision and discuss that with Russell before making it public."

Packer's victim has closed down a social media account after making disparaging comments regarding what his attacker can expect to experience in prison. Time reportedly posted on Facebook on Monday soon after Packer received his sentence.

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The 22-year-old made prison-style references to what Packer can look forward to while serving time.

"Lol haha have a good Monday people" is a sanitised version of what Time posted on his Facebook page.

It attracted 12 likes and 16 comments before the account was disabled.

Meanwhile, Garth McVicar, spokesman for the Sensible Sentencing Trust, has labelled Packer's sentence as "not enough" and believes it should be increased to five years in the Court of Appeal.

"If Packer did this on the field he would be red carded, off the field immediately, and banned for life. It should be no different off the field," McVicar said. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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