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Brett Finch avoids jail after sharing ‘depraved’ child abuse material

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NRL star Brett Finch has avoided jail after being convicted of sharing ‘depraved’ child sex abuse material amid a crippling cocaine addiction.

Judge Judge Phillip Mahony sentenced Finch to a $1,000 two-year good behaviour bond in Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court on Wednesday afternoon. 

Finch had been under the influence of medication when he left a series of ‘twisted’ messages on a gay chat line describing a desire to perform sex acts on boys as young as 12.  

The retired representative halfback pleaded guilty in August to at least one charge of using a carriage service to transmit, publish or promote child abuse. 

Former NRL star Brett Finch says he was attempting to buy cocaine when he left child abuse messages on a gay sex hotline through the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Finch finally learnt his fate for sharing child sexual abuse material on Wednesday 

Psychologist Chris Lennings told the court Finch's offending was not sexually motivated, but that it was important the ex-footballer was subjected to 'biological drug testing', such as hair follicle tests, in the future. Finch is pictured above with his wife Elli Johnston

Psychologist Chris Lennings told the court Finch’s offending was not sexually motivated, but that it was vital the ex-footballer was subjected to ‘biological drug testing’, resembling hair follicle tests, in the longer term. Finch is pictured above together with his wife Elli Johnston

The utmost penalty for the offence is 15 years in prison and the Crown had asked Finch be sentenced to full-time custody. 

The 41-year-old admitted feeling disgust at himself for making the calls and said his only intention had been to acquire cocaine as his drug problem ‘spiralled uncontrolled’.

Judge Mahony described the content of the messages as ‘highly depraved’ and ‘morally reprehensible’ but found there have been exceptional circumstances to Finch’s offending.

He accepted Finch had been motivated by a desperate and ‘patently absurd’ try to source drugs quite than him having any sexual interest in children.

Judge Mahony noted no images had been created or shared, the offending was ‘entirely unsophisticated’ and Finch acted alone while on drug-fuelled binges.

Finch had no criminal record, had given his time freely to junior football coaching and charity work and had low prospects of reoffending.

‘I accept that he’s genuinely remorseful for his offending conduct,’ Judge Mahony said. 

Finch admitted using the sex chat service FastMeet but said any messages he left about wanting to have physical encounters with teen boys was 'just s*** talk'. He is pictured reporting on bail

Finch admitted using the sex chat service FastMeet but said any messages he left about wanting to have physical encounters with teen boys was ‘just s*** talk’. He’s pictured reporting on bail

Judge Mahony had been ‘generally impressed’ by Finch’s evidence and said he had demonstrated insight into his addiction and the ‘enormity’ of the challenges he faced staying clean.

The daddy-of-one had been subjected to media scrutiny ‘above and beyond’ that faced by someone without his profile who committed the identical offences.

Under the terms of Finch’s recognisance release order he should be of fine behaviour, not travel interstate or overseas without permission and undergo drug testing and treatment. 

Finch told Judge Mahony that at the peak of his drug problem, which began in 2013, he was using 12 to 25 grams of cocaine per week and happening five-day benders. 

Finch, pictured with wife Elli, was caught up in a wider investigation conducted under the banner of Strike Force Hank by officers from the NSW Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad

Finch, pictured with wife Elli, was caught up in a wider investigation conducted under the banner of Strike Force Hank by officers from the NSW Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad

There was evidence he from suffered post-concussion syndrome from repeated head knocks when playing football and had did not adapt to life away from the limelight. 

The court heard Finch was so ashamed of his actions he rarely left his home and since his arrest he had been abused when out in public.

He had unsuccessful applied for 300 jobs, was living off Centrelink payments and can be at grave physical risk from ‘hardened criminals’ in prison.

Defence barrister Mike Smith had said his client’s public profile meant the effect of widespread and ongoing publicity about his offending was ‘out of all proportion’ together with his actual crime.

‘His prospects of employment have been decimated by the media publicity surrounding this matter which might not have occurred but for his former occupation,’ Mr Smith told the court.

Mr Smith said the reporting of Finch’s conduct had been accurate however the ‘casual reader’ would nonetheless wrongly consider ‘that this man likes having sex with children’.

‘He will likely be saddled with that without end,’ Mr Smith said. ‘He is just not a paedophile and is just not motivated by sexual attraction to children.’ 

Finch told the court he left ‘twisted’ phone messages on FastMeet – a service for gay men – as he thought ‘hypersexualised’ users could possibly be a final resort to get drugs. 

‘I used to be disgusted in myself that I would go away these messages within the hope of obtaining drugs,’ Finch told the court. ‘Those words should never have come out of my mouth. I regret it now. It makes me sick now.’ 

Finch said his only goal in leaving the messages was to seek out a source to purchase cocaine, telling the court he was introduced to the service by drug dealer connections. 

Finch told police he was 'on drugs' when he made the recordings, he had not initiated any sexual conversation about children and any reference to wanting physical encounters with teen boys was 'just s*** talk'. Finch is seen above being arrested at his home in December 2021

Finch told police he was ‘on drugs’ when he made the recordings, he had not initiated any sexual conversation about children and any reference to wanting physical encounters with teen boys was ‘just s*** talk’. Finch is seen above being arrested at his home in December 2021 

He said within the Covid-19 pandemic dealers weren’t on the roads and that he tried every drug contact in his phone before turning to FastMeet in desperation. 

Mr Smith had asked Finch: ‘Have you ever ever had a sexual interest in children?’

Finch: ‘Never.’

Messages Finch left on the service were revealed in an agreed statement of facts tendered to court and included material too graphic to publish. 

In December 2020 12 months Finch sent messages describing a desire to perform sexual acts with a 12-year-old boy. 

Finch had no criminal record, had given his time to coaching and charities and had low prospects of reoffending. 'I accept that he is genuinely remorseful for his offending conduct,' Judge Mahony said

Finch had no criminal record, had given his time to coaching and charities and had low prospects of reoffending. ‘I accept that he’s genuinely remorseful for his offending conduct,’ Judge Mahony said

Finch told police he was ‘on drugs’ when he made the recordings, he had not initiated any sexual conversation about children and any reference to wanting physical encounters with teen boys was ‘just s*** talk’.  

The retired footballer stopped using the chat line in early 2021 after he got a reply from a user ‘who desired to take me up’ and mentioned ‘granddaughters’, the court heard.

The reply made Finch realise his behaviour could contribute to paedophilia. 

‘It made me utterly sick, I used to be disgusted,’ he told the court. 

‘I immediately told him he was a sick f*** and to f*** off. I just desired to strangle the bloke through the phone.’

League great Craig Young wrote a glowing endorsement for Finch, whose father Robert was a teammate at the Dragons in the 1970s. Young stepped down as St George Illawarra chairman after conceding it had been an 'error of judgement' to write the reference on club letterhead

League great Craig Young wrote a glowing endorsement for Finch, whose father Robert was a teammate on the Dragons within the Seventies. Young stepped down as St George Illawarra chairman after conceding it had been an ‘error of judgement’ to write down the reference on club letterhead 

Finch, whose wife Elli is the daughter of Australian Football Hall of Famer and Carlton great Wayne ‘The Dominator’ Johnston, has spoken publicly about his past problems with alcohol and medicines. 

He had once been in demand as a paid public speaker and had freely given his time to charities but had now ‘lost the whole lot’.

‘I understand why nobody wants to come back near me,’ Finch said.

‘I’ve got nobody else responsible but myself… it’s hurt so many other people and that is what I’m sorry for.’ 

Psychologist Chris Lennings told the court Finch’s offending was not sexually motivated, but that it was vital the ex-footballer was subjected to drug tests. 

‘In my assessment he doesn’t present as having a sexual deviance ,’ Dr Lennings said.

Finch played 330 first grade games for the Raiders, Roosters, Eels and Storm in the NRL and Wigan in the UK Super League. He is pictured right celebrating a win playing for NSW in game one of the 2006 State of Origin series in Sydney

Finch played 330 first grade games for the Raiders, Roosters, Eels and Storm within the NRL and Wigan within the UK Super League. He’s pictured right celebrating a win playing for NSW in game one in every of the 2006 State of Origin series in Sydney

Rugby league great Craig Young wrote a glowing endorsement for Finch, whose father Robert was a teammate of his on the Dragons within the Seventies.

Young stepped down as chairman of St George Illawarra after conceding it had been an ‘error of judgement’ to write down the reference on club letterhead. 

The NRL Hall of Famer had told the court he didn’t consider Finch had any sexual interest in children but had a drug problem and said he desired to help him get well from his addiction.  

Finch played 330 first grade games for the Raiders, Roosters, Eels and Storm within the NRL and Wigan within the UK Super League. 

He played three State of Origins for NSW and won a premiership with Melbourne in 2009 but that title was stripped on account of salary cap violations.

Finch’s crowning moment got here within the 2006 Origin opener when he kicked a match-winning field goal for the Blues.

After retirement from league Finch worked in commentary for 2GB, Nine and Fox Sports but eventually lost all those jobs. 

How Brett Finch was caught up in an investigation into paedophiles

Finch's solicitor Paul McGirr (left) said his client had been caught up in a wider police investigation into the activities of offenders he had never met

Finch’s solicitor Paul McGirr (left) said his client had been caught up in a wider police investigation into the activities of offenders he had never met

Finch was caught up in an investigation into users of the FastMeet sex chat line which was conducted under the banner of Strike Force Hank.

Police became aware of Finch’s use of the service after Victorian detectives arrested a convicted paedophile who had been using the service to exchange child abuse material with other men.

FastMeet operates on multiple platforms including a web site and cell phone app. A live chat room allows users to go away sexually explicit voice messages.

Finch left such messages on FastMeet six times between November 2020 and January 2021. He says he was merely attempting to buy cocaine.

Messages Finch left on the service were revealed in an agreed statement of facts tendered to court and included material too graphic to publish. 

Finch was called up to play State of Origin for NSW in 2006 and famously kicked the match-winning field goal in game one of the series. He is pictured after kicking that goal

Finch was called as much as play State of Origin for NSW in 2006 and famously kicked the match-winning field goal in game one in every of the series. He’s pictured after kicking that goal

In December 2020 12 months Finch sent messages describing a desire to perform sexual acts with a 12-year-old boy. 

Finch told police he was ‘on drugs’ when he made the recordings, he had not initiated any sexual conversation about children and reference to wanting physical encounters with teen boys was ‘just s*** talk’.  

Solicitor Paul McGirr said his client had been ‘swept up’ in the broader police investigation sparked by the arrest of the Victorian paedophile.

‘Brett Finch wasn’t the focus of the investigation and in that specific respect his offending was isolated,’ Mr McGirr said.

‘He doesn’t know any of the co-accused and didn’t offend for the just about 12 months before he was arrested.’ 

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