The Fallout from Titans Drug Charges Exemplifies a Flawed War on Drugs

The Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) issued notices to appear in court to five players of the Gold Coast Titans Rugby League Club.

Five players have been stood down, including Greg Bird, Beau Falloon, Jamie Dowling and Kalifa Faifai Loa. These players have been accused of using cocaine, and supplying it to their close friends for their personal use.

The legal system operates on the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty. These men will not be given criminal sanction until the offences have been proven beyond all reasonable doubt.

However, the dismissals of the players demonstrate an assumption of guilt by people outside the justice system that is misplaced and unfair.

It is unfair that these men have to face personal consequences affecting their employment and reputation while the charges are still pending, and before they have been given a chance to explain their perspective on the situation before the NRL or any criminal tribunal.

It is clear that the club and the NRL are attempting to mitigate the impact of such a scandal on their fan base and sponsorship contracts. However, these financial interests conflict with the rights of these men to be presumed innocent before they are found guilty, and the right to explain the situation through due process.

The public should also not be making decisions about these men based on the imperfect information presented by the media, or assuming guilt simply because they have been charged.

It was reported that there is a CCTV video of the players meeting with a known drug dealer. We should not assume that they are meeting for the purposes of receiving drugs, or attribute any evidentiary value to it in the absence of seeing it or having heard the player’s explanations.

Considering that the known evidence against the players is at this point unclear, it is imperative that the players are allowed the full force of their presumption of innocence.

Furthermore, the players have been charged with ‘supplying’ cocaine, which is a label that is at odds with the nature of the alleged activity. The allegations pertain to the provision of cocaine to close friends. There was no suggestion that they were onselling the drugs for profit.

There is a real legal artificiality derived from the overly broad definition of “supply”, when the situation essentially amounts to personal use with the company of friends.

The charge of “supply” in this sense mislabels private recreational use between friends as something more sinister.

This charge reflects the arbitrary nature of our war on drugs, a war that should not have begun in the first place. While it may not be ideal, as athletes, for the players to have allegedly taken drugs, it is certainly not an act that should attract criminal sanction.

The NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith said “They will be given due process”. If that were true, then they would be playing right up until receiving their verdict.

O’BRIEN SOLICITORS

Peter O’Brien

Principal Solicitor

Accredited Specialist in Criminal Law

If you are in need of a lawyer giving assistance relating to drugs charges, contact Peter O’Brien at (02) 9261 4281 or at info@obriensolicitors.com.au