Jailed former New Zealand Warriors and Kiwis prop Russell Packer faces an anxious wait to see if an appeal against his two-year sentence for assault is successful after the matter was only partly heard in a Sydney court today.
The hearing in the Downing Centre Local court got underway more than four hours later than scheduled due to a backlog, meaning the 24-year-old father of two remains in Silverwater Jail until it resumes in April.
Greg James QC - the third barrister to act for Packer since he reported to a Newcastle police station after the incident in the early hours of November 23 - lodged an application for appeal bail, the second time his legal representation have sought his release to undergo a residential rehabilitation programme to address his dependence on alcohol.
The first bail application was turned down by Judge Helen Syme on January 30 and Judge Chris Hoy reached the same decision despite submissions from James, who said it was in the community's interest for Packer to be rehabilitated.
Packer sat stoically when Justice Hoy made his decision while his mother Brenda held her head in her hands in a public gallery occupied by his family, his partner Lara Wilcox, her relatives and supporters including former Kiwis international Craig Smith.
The hearing only dealt with the bail application - the appeal will be heard and should be resolved on April 11.
Hoy acknowledged James' contention that Packer would benefit from a residential rehabilitation programme to deal with his dependency on alcohol but that was counterbalanced by the seriousness of the incident.
"The difficulty I have is the seriousness of the offence.
"I accept [Packer] has a previous good record, I accept he has the support of family and friends, I accept he has endeavoured to rehabilitate himself and I accept this is the first time he's ever faced the imposition of a full time custodial sentence," Hoy said, but the incident still represented "serious, violent behaviour".
When he appeared in court on January 6 Packer pleaded guilty to assaulting ex-pat New Zealander Enoka Time shortly after he was ejected from a hotel in Sydney's CBD because he was intoxicated.
Time was knocked unconscious and received facial injuries after being punched by Packer who the prosecution alleged then stomped on the 22-year-old's head while he was lying on the ground.
Packer and his original legal team were astonished when Magistrate Greg Grogin imposed a custodial sentence - an outcome that was widely applauded in the community given the escalation of alcohol-fuelled violence in Sydney's entertainment precincts.
His four-year contract with the Newcastle Knights was terminated six days after his jail term got underway though the club continued to support Ms Wilcox, who relocated to Newcastle with the couples children in December.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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