AFL tribunal to delay Lovett hearing - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

AFL tribunal to delay Lovett hearing

01/04/2010 08:48:33 PM Comments (0)

St Kilda's plans to submit evidence from Andrew Lovett's alleged rape victim has forced the AFL's grievance tribunal hearing to be postponed until after the sacked player's criminal case is heard.

The club also wants to call five St Kilda players - who are expected to be required to give evidence in the criminal matter - to give evidence to the tribunal.

Lovett is seeking a payout from the Saints, after he signed a three-year deal with the club worth more than $1 million but was sacked in February without playing a game.

The sacking was announced a day after he was charged with one count of rape.

But the tribunal on Thursday granted an application by St Kilda, supported by Victoria Police, to delay hearing Lovett's damages claim until after the rape charge has been heard.

The tribunal said that if they went ahead with their hearing before or during the criminal matter, it would carry "the real risk of interfering with the course of criminal justice".

The tribunal said in a statement that Michael McDonald SC, representing the Saints, had informed them the club intended to submit evidence on Lovett's conduct on December 23 and 24, when the alleged rape occurred.

The Saints also said they planned to bring evidence from the alleged victim and a female companion of the alleged victim.

They also expected to call five Saints players and one club official, who have all already given statements to police.

The tribunal said they had reservations about whether the Saints needed to bring such evidence in a case designed to determine whether they were justified in sacking Lovett.

They noted that a statement released by the Saints on the day they announced Lovett's sacking specifically stated that their decision was not based on whether he is innocent or guilty of rape.

But they said at this stage they had to accept the Saints' submission that the evidence and the appearance of those witnesses was necessary.

The tribunal acknowledged their decision to delay the hearing would cause significant hardship to Lovett, but said they had no option.

"The grievance tribunal is of the opinion it has no choice but to grant the application for stay of the grievance tribunal proceedings pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings," they said.

The tribunal also noted a submission by the Saints that if Lovett was sent to prison, the impact on his ability to play football would mean a heavy discount in any potential damages payout.

Lovett is due back in court on May 7 for a committal mention.

AFL players' association chief executive Matt Finnis said the tribunal's decision set a worrying precedent.

He said Lovett might be waiting 18 months to get his grievance heard.

"People should put aside any presumptions about what Andrew Lovett has done or hasn't done," Finnis said.

"At the end of the day we have a situation where someone is unilaterally sacked by their employer before they have ever set foot in a courtroom, and subsequently prevented from having his dismissal reviewed for up to a year and a half while the matter goes through the criminal court process.

"I am worried about the next player or the player after that who is exposed to this apparent flaw in the system, where a club has the absolute power to act any way it wants, no matter how unfair, and the player has no right to challenge that for months or even years."

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