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Australia Rugby league player successfully appeals jail term for 'ferocious' assault after court finds victim punched and racially abused him

10:07  16 december  2019
10:07  16 december  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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a group of people standing next to a person: Mr Cama will be required to do 200 hours community service for the © Provided by ABC NEWS Mr Cama will be required to do 200 hours community service for the "ferocious" on-field assault. (ABC News: Dom Vukovic)

A rugby league player sentenced to jail for punching his opponent and breaking his jaw, will not go to prison after an appeals court found the victim had provoked him by calling him a "black dog" and punching him in the face.

In August Iliesa Makita Cama, a Fijian national and captain-coach of the Denman Devils, was handed an 18-month prison term over the incident which the magistrate described as a "ferocious" and "shocking" attack against Murrurundi Mavericks opponent Ryan Holman in the closing stages of a reserve-grade rugby league match in the Hunter Valley earlier this year.

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Mr Holman, who was knocked unconscious and had several screws inserted into his broken jaw, maintained at the time that the incident had been unprovoked.

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He'd then told the ABC that he was "really annoyed and disappointed that he [Mr Cama] claimed he was racially abused and that he was punched first".

"That could not be further from the truth," Mr Holman said at the time.

"I'm glad that he has pled guilty and taken some accountability for his actions," Mr Holman added.

The victim's family also voiced concern that a 14-week suspension against Mr Cama from the league was "disgraceful" and "inadequate".

Murrurundi Mavericks player Ryan Holman suffered a broken jaw and earlier denied provoking the attack.© ABC Murrurundi Mavericks player Ryan Holman suffered a broken jaw and earlier denied provoking the attack.

However during an appeal against the severity of the prison sentence in Newcastle District Court today, prosecuting solicitor Brad Godson advised the court that the Crown had accepted that "reprehensible" acts of provocation had in fact occurred.

'Gross provocation' before incident, Judge says

In making his decision, District Court Judge Tim Gartelmann said the assault did warrant a term of imprisonment, however he noted the actions of the victim amounted to a "gross provocation" and ordered that Mr Cama instead serve his jail sentence out in the community in the form of an intensive corrections order.

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But three appeal court judges ruled that the term should not be increased. The shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry, said she was surprised the After the hearing, Longstaff said: “We at WAR are very relieved that the court of appeal took into account her being a young mother of a small child

His Honour found that during the rugby league game, Mr Holman had "struck Mr Cama in the right side of the forehead, which caused the appellant [Mr Cama] to go back to the ground, and then called him a black dog, before Mr Cama then punched him several times on the ground".

His Honour noted that Mr Cama had otherwise shown an extensive history of playing rugby league without incident, had a full-time job in construction, and had many testimonials supporting his good character. He also noted that Mr Cama was apologetic and had shown an insight into his actions.

Mr Cama was ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service, report to community corrections, and continue seeing a psychologist to address the incident.

Iliesa Makita Cama told police it wasn't his intention to hurt the victim that badly.© ABC Iliesa Makita Cama told police it wasn't his intention to hurt the victim that badly.

The court heard Mr Cama could be significantly impacted by a term of imprisonment as it could see a revocation of his visa.

Outside court, Mr Cama's lawyer, Ben Hoffman, said his client was regretful for what had occurred but believed the court had delivered a "just outcome".

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