Saints' Baker denied 'fair hearing' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Saints' Baker denied 'fair hearing'

By Adam Cooper 03/08/2006 08:53:08 PM Comments (0)

The two-game suspension imposed on St Kilda's Steven Baker will stand despite the Saints' argument the midfielder was the victim of a "miscarriage of justice" at his AFL tribunal hearing.

The Saints will be without their No.1 choice to tag West Coast captain Chris Judd in Friday night's crunch game at Telstra Dome after the AFL appeals board dismissed Baker's appeal against his ban for attempting to strike Richmond's Greg Stafford.

St Kilda argued Baker was denied a fair hearing at last Tuesday night's tribunal sitting because AFL legal counsel Will Houghton had not challenged the Saint on his evidence about his tangle with Stafford at the MCG last Saturday.

Baker was reported for a jumper punch, where the player grabs an opponent's guernsey and then pushes in a punching motion.

Player advocate Paul Ehrlich said Houghton had only set out to prove Baker intended to strike Stafford, but never outlined where the Saint was aiming and had "misconstrued" the case to get an easy decision out of the jury.

Ehrlich said Houghton never asked Baker if he meant to hit Stafford in the head, and should have done so "as a matter of fairness".

By not asking Baker, Ehrlich said, Houghton had not given the player a chance to contest the AFL's case against him, and had also confused the jury.

This constituted an "error of law", he said.

Ehrlich said Houghton had asked only "non-probing" questions of Baker, and never used the words "head" or "high".

But appeals board chairman Peter O'Callaghan QC, in dismissing the appeal, said tribunal chairman David Jones had instructed his jury correctly, and that the jury possessed the relevant facts.

O'Callaghan said it was up to the jury to weigh up how much of Baker's evidence it used in finding a verdict.

Baker's poor record in recent seasons contributed to his two-game suspension.

But the fact he was suspended despite not making any contact left Saints coach Grant Thomas bemused.

"That's a very good question, that would be a really strange situation if it existed in all aspects of life," Thomas said.

"You'd really want to think that through, that if you got into more trouble for attempting to do something than actually doing something, it would be a pretty weird world, wouldn't it?"

Baker will also be sidelined for the round 19 game against Geelong.

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