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Sydney Roosters player, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, to appear in court for domestic violence charges

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NRL player for the Sydney Roosters, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, will appear in court on 6 August 2015 to face ten domestic violence-related charges. They relate to his former girlfriend, Jessica Peris, and allegedly occurred between October 2014 and June 2015.

Kenny-Dowall was expected to appear at Waverley Local Court on Thursday after being charged on Saturday 18 July 2015, however was admitted to hospital this week. His lawyer, Chris Watson, was present and handed the court’s registrar an envelope containing a medical certificate for the player. Watson refused to make further comment on the player’s condition.

Six of the charges are for alleged common assaults in the former couple’s home this year, assault occasioning bodily harm in October 2014, as well as charges of stalking, damaging Peris’ mobile phone and sending her threatening text messages.

Kenny-Dowall is reportedly receiving assistance through Wesley Mission’s psychiatric services, as an inpatient at Wesley Hospital. His coach at the Sydney Roosters, Trent Robinson, has described Kenny-Dowell as ‘in a bit of a dark place’ and cautioned the public not to jump to conclusions. His lawyer, Chris Watson, described his condition as ‘serious’, and said that he had been unable to speak to his client so far.

While Kenny-Dowall will not play for the Roosters for the second week in a row, some domestic violence groups, including Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia and the NSW Council of Social Services, have criticised the NRL for not formally suspending him from playing while the case is ongoing. Kenny-Dowall is still hypothetically available for selection, however is not playing due to his welfare, as confirmed by his coach.

Even NSW Premier Mike Baird has weighed in on the issue, urging the NRL’s CEO, Dave Smith, to take a harder line on the case.  He said that whilst Kenny-Dowall had the right to be presumed innocent, the NRL should send a strong message by not allowing him to play until the case was over. Kenny-Dowall’s coach, Robinson, hit back, calling Baird’s comments ‘pretty disappointing’ and suggesting that the Premier didn’t look into the case before making a statement.

The NRL’s CEO, Dave Smith, reiterated on the League’s official Twitter that there would be ‘serious consequences’ for those found guilty of domestic violence in line with the NRL’s position, but also stressed that it was ‘very dangerous to prejudge.’

White Ribbon Australia has applauded the NRL’s stance on domestic violence, and in particular Smith’s comments. In a statement this week, White Ribbon said that it had ‘full confidence’ in the NRL’s ability to lead by example on this issue. After a number of years of informal partnership, the NRL signed a partnership agreement with White Ribbon Australia in March of this year, and has supported White Ribbon Day and hosted a Leadership Forum on domestic violence.

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