Former NRL player Sam Burgess has escaped a conviction for driving with cocaine in his blood after being pulled over in an unregistered BMW on the Hume Highway in February.
The 32-year-old former South Sydney captain sat silently in Moss Vale Local Court on Tuesday as his lawyer entered guilty pleas to three traffic offences.
Before fining Burgess $1162 and sentencing him to a 9-month conditional release order, Magistrate Mark Douglass considered his lengthy traffic record.
The five-page document dates back to 2010 and comprises more than 30 speeding and mobile phone offences.
The record shows Burgess was pinged by mobile phone cameras five times and caught speeding twice in 2020 alone.
Magistrate Douglass said it was a “poor record” that did not help Burgess.
But he was spared a conviction due to the “arduous and rigorous” rehabilitation program the retired rugby player has completed in the wake of his arrest.
“There’s a real dichotomy here,” Magistrate Douglass said.
“There’s a Sam Burgess before February 22, setting a bad example in the community for those who look up to him.
“The Sam Burgess after that date has been to rehabilitation, four weeks, a quasi-custodial environment. (He has) been to counsellors and undergoing a very strict regime in relation to non-use of drugs.”
Burgess was driving a black BMW X5 when he was stopped by police at Braemar in the NSW Southern Highlands on February 22 and subjected to a random roadside drug test. The oral swab later tested positive for cocaine.
According to police facts tendered in court, Burgess was surprised when officers told him the car’s registration had been cancelled due to $1200 in outstanding fines, getting out his phone and paying them immediately.
He offered no excuse for driving on a UK licence despite having lived in NSW for more than three months.
His lawyer Bryan Wrench told Magistrate Mark Douglass only a “trace amount” of cocaine was detected and lashed “misreporting” that Burgess had been caught “driving under the influence”.
There was no sign of intoxication whatsoever, he told the court.
Mr Wrench also argued Burgess had been under “extreme pressure” at the time due to his high-profile separation from his wife and his “wrongful conviction” for intimidating his former father-in-law, of which he was cleared on appeal in March.
Original Article: https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/sam-burgess-pleads-guilty-to-drug-charge-c-2753695