NRL star Brett Finch will be wrongly labelled a paedophile for the rest of his life after admitting to sharing child sex abuse material, his lawyer has told a court.
Finch was so ashamed of his actions he rarely left his home and no longer went to the gym, Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court heard on Tuesday.
The 41-year-old had unsuccessful applied for 300 jobs, was living off Centrelink payments and would be at grave physical risk from ‘hardened criminals’ if sent to jail.
Finch will be sentenced next month after pleading guilty in August to one charge of using a carriage service to transmit, publish or promote child abuse.
Former NRL star Brett Finch says he was trying to buy cocaine when he left child abuse messages on a gay sex hotline during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Finch is set to learn his fate for sharing child sexual abuse material. He is pictured at court on Tuesday
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
He has admitted feeling disgust at himself for sharing child sexual abuse material which he said he did only in a bid to obtain cocaine as his drug problem ‘spiralled out of control’.
Finch said at the height of his addiction he was using 12 to 25 grams of cocaine a week and going on five-day benders.
Defence barrister Mike Smith said Finch’s public profile meant the effect of widespread and ongoing publicity about his offending was ‘out of all proportion’ with his actual crime.
‘His prospects of employment have been decimated by the media publicity surrounding this matter which would not have occurred but for his former profession,’ Mr Smith told the court.
Mr Smith said the reporting of Finch’s conduct had been accurate but the ‘casual reader’ would nonetheless wrongly believe ‘that this man likes having sex with children’.
‘He will be saddled with that forever,’ Mr Smith said. ‘He is not a paedophile and is not motivated by sexual attraction to children.’
Mr Smith said Finch’s prospects for rehabilitation were good but he had to address his drug addiction, which would not be done if he was imprisoned.
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
‘I think Your Honour could be comfortably satisfied there is no real risk of Mr Finch repeating his offending behaviour,’ Mr Smith told Judge Phillip Mahony.
Finch told the court on Monday he left ‘twisted’ phone messages on FastMeet – a service for gay men – as he thought ‘hypersexualised’ users could be a last resort to get drugs.
‘I was disgusted in myself that I would leave these messages in 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 obtain cocaine, telling the court he was introduced to the service by drug dealer connections.
He said in the Covid-19 pandemic dealers were not on the roads and that he tried every dealer in his phone before turning to FastMeet in desperation.
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
Defence barrister Mike Smith asked Finch: ‘Have you ever had a sexual interest in children?’
Messages Finch left on the service were revealed in an agreed statement of facts tendered to court and included material too vile to publish.
‘Yeah how you going mate?’ Finch asked in one message sent in November 2020.
‘My name is Brad, 35, masculine build, married. Love to have a hot chat, talk about real kinky, having a threesome with a nice 16-year-old boy.’
In another, Finch said: ‘G’day mate, married guy, 39, muscular bod, would love to be outside, you and me in swimmers, a nice little 16 year old surfer boy comes past.’
In December 2020 year Finch sent messages describing a desire to perform sexual acts with a 12-year-old boy.
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 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 wanted 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 was disgusted,’ he told the court.
‘I instantly told him he was a sick f*** and to f*** off. I just wanted to strangle the bloke through the phone.’
Finch said he was ashamed and disgusted to have left the messages in the hope of scoring cocaine.
‘That period I really spiralled out of control with my drug use,’ he said.
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 drugs.
He had once been in demand as a paid public speaker and had freely given his time to charities but had now ‘lost everything’.
‘I understand why no one wants to come near me,’ Finch said.
‘I’ve got no one else to blame but myself… it’s hurt so many other people and that’s what I’m sorry for.’
Asked whether he accepted his behaviour was a ‘inexact’ way to obtain drugs, Finch said: ‘It was a terrible method and one I’m deeply ashamed of.’
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.
‘In my assessment he does not present as having a sexual deviance ,’ Dr Lennings said via audio-visual link.
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
Late on Monday, two family friends of Finch gave evidence, describing him as a loyal, kind and caring man whose offending conduct was out of character.
Finch played 330 first grade games for the Raiders, Roosters, Eels and Storm in the NRL and Wigan in 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 due to salary cap violations.
Finch’s crowning moment came in 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.
Judge Mahony will sentence Finch on November 23.