Latrell ‘could have died’ in arrest as NRL clubs slam police after cop’s embarrassing day in court

Latrell ‘could have died’ in arrest as NRL clubs slam police after cop’s embarrassing day in court

The Rabbitohs and Raiders have slammed the ACT Police after charges against Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton were sensationally dropped on Wednesday.

The case was dismissed a day after a senior police officer involved in their arrests admitted to giving false evidence to the court.

The NRL players have spent the past two days in ACT Magistrates Court over incidents alleged to have occurred on a night out for Wighton’s 30th birthday in February.

But after a hugely embarrassing day in court for the police on Tuesday, the prosecutor was left with little choice but to withdraw all charges.

Wighton has just joined South Sydney from the Canberra Raiders. Outside court, Raiders chief executive Don Furner blasted the case “an extraordinary waste of the court’s time and taxpayers money”.

“This could have and should have been avoided,” Furner said.

“We wrote to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) a number of times to try to get meetings, to ask them why this was going to go ahead.

“I personally called Neil Gaughan, the head of ACT police … I went and saw him, I showed him the footage and I read him the police statement of facts and I said: ‘I can’t see how these marry, please tell me if I’m missing something’.

“I couldn’t believe it.

“Police falsified their statements to get a conviction against a high-profile NRL player.

“I don’t think that’s the last ACT police and the DPP will have heard of this.”

Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton leave the ACT Magistrate’s court in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin OllmanSource: News Corp Australia

Souths were also scathing of the police in a statement they released after the case was dismissed.

“The South Sydney Rabbitohs welcome today’s dismissal of charges against players Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton in the ACT Magistrate’s Court regarding charges laid by ACT Police in February 2023,” the club said in a statement.

“The charges against both players were dismissed following evidence presented to the court which confirmed neither player had conducted themselves in a manner pursuant to the charges which were laid.

“The club fully supports the comments of Latrell’s solicitor, Tom Taylor from Hugo Law Group, following the dismissal of the charges.

“At no stage did Jack Wighton engage in violent or aggressive conduct, and there was no need for police to use the level of force that Mr Mitchell endured.

“These charges have also weighed heavily on both players over the past eight to nine months. They have shown great courage and resilience in fighting to prove the charges laid were false and unwarranted.”

In the video footage of Mitchell’s dramatic arrested that was played to the court, the NRL star could be heard crying out in pain, saying that he had “done nothing wrong” and asking police if they were arresting him “because I’m a blackfella”.

Mitchell was “reduced to a weeping mess” during the incident and outside court on Wednesday he said the case had “a massive impact on community”.

“Through the last 10 months, it has been very hard, not only for myself but for my family, with what they’ve had to read and endure. [It’s been] a traumatic experience,” he said.

“Today I hope everyone knows and understands the seriousness of what’s gone on.”

Outside court, Wighton thanked the Raiders, where he has played since making his NRL debut in 2012, for their support throughout the saga.

“They’ve backed me the whole way through and it means the world to me,” he said.

“I’ve spent so long with this club, and in this town, and to have this support is massive.”

Mitchell’s lawyer Tom Taylor argued outside court his client “could have died” if not for his strength during the aggressive arrest.

“Three to four grown men forced themselves on top of him … but for his extraordinary strength, he might not have survived – any other person could have died,” Taylor said.

“He was told to get on his knees – he complied … there was absolutely no need by police to use the level of force Mr Mitchell endured, no person should be subjected to the treatment.

“We know Indigenous people are dying in custody, we know Indigenous people are more likely to be arrested … we need to do better as a community.

“What if Mr Mitchell was convicted for resisting police officers … when he was brutally taken to the ground and subjected to inhumane treatment? Mr Mitchell and Mr Wighton might have become further sad statistics.”

Wighton had been charged with contravening an exclusion order and fighting in a public place, while Mitchell was charged with fighting in a public place, affray, and resisting territory official.

It was initially alleged that Wighton had been given an exclusion notice after police observed him “pushing and shoving” a man inside Fiction nightclub, having “clenched fists” and having an “angry” expression on his face which made police think violence could ensue.

But on Tuesday, Sergeant David Power – the supervisor of a group of officers involved in the incident – was shown a series of CCTV that Wighton’s lawyer Steve Boland argued showed significant holes in the police’s description of the night.

Power then told the court allegations he’d made about why he’d kicked Wighton out of the club no longer seemed accurate.

Power admitted: “What I saw didn’t line up with the footage” and conceded he had a “memory issue”.

“What I saw appears to have not happened, and my memory has failed me,” he said.

Boland accused Power of trying to “frame” his client by “inventing” evidence.

“It wasn’t a lie. It’s what I believed happened,” Power said and denied misleading the court.

The sergeant later apologised to Wighton in front of the court.

“Sorry Jack, if that’s what happened, mate. I thought I saw something different,” he said to Wighton.

Mitchell’s lawyer, Tom Taylor, called for “a serious review” into the case.

“Mr Wighton and Mr Mitchell had exchanged words whilst walking away from the Fiction nightclub. However, that exchange did not involve a fight of any kind, which is what was alleged against them,” he said.

“The whole incident became violent once the police became involved.

“I understand the ACT attorney-general is aware of the case and is proposing a review once the outcome is made public.”

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