NRL star Brett Finch will be wrongly labeled a pedophile for the rest of his life after admitting sharing child sexual abuse material, his lawyer has told a court.
Finch was so ashamed of his actions that he rarely left his home and no longer went to the gym, Sydney’s Downing Center District Court heard on Tuesday.
The 41-year-old had unsuccessfully applied for 300 jobs, lived off Centrelink payments and would be at serious physical risk from ‘hardened criminals’ if sent to prison.
Finch will be sentenced next month after pleading guilty in August to a charge of using a transportation service to transmit, publish or promote child abuse.
Former NRL star Brett Finch says he tried to buy cocaine when he left messages about child abuse on a gay hotline during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Finch must learn his fate of sharing child sexual abuse material. He is pictured in court on Tuesday
Psychologist Chris Lennings told the court that Finch’s offending was not sexually motivated, but that it was important the ex-footballer underwent ‘biological drug testing’, such as hair follicle tests, in the future. Finch is pictured above with his wife Elli Johnston
He has admitted he felt disgusted with himself for sharing material about child sexual abuse, which he said he only did in an attempt to get cocaine when his drug addiction “spiraled out of control”.
Defense lawyer Mike Smith said Finch’s public profile meant the effect of widespread and sustained publicity about his offending was “out of all proportion” to his actual crime.
“His employment prospects have been decimated by the media coverage surrounding this case which would not have occurred outside of his previous profession,” Smith told the court.
Smith said the reporting of Finch’s behavior had been accurate, but the “casual reader” would nevertheless mistakenly believe “that this man likes to have sex with children”.
“He’ll be saddled with it forever,” said Mr. Smith. ‘He is not a pedophile and is not motivated by sexual attraction to children.’
Smith said Finch’s prospects for rehabilitation were good, but he needed to address his substance abuse, which would not be done if he was incarcerated.
Finch told police he was ‘on drugs’ when he made the footage, that he had not initiated any sexual conversation about children and any reference to wanting physical encounters with teenage boys was ‘just bullshit’. Finch is seen above being arrested at his home in December 2021
“I think your Honor could be comfortably satisfied that there is no real risk of Mr Finch repeating his offending behaviour,” said Mr. Smith to Judge Phillip Mahony.
Finch told the court on Monday he left ‘twisted’ phone messages on FastMeet – a service for gay men – as he believed ‘hypersexualised’ users could be a last resort to get drugs.
“I was disgusted with myself that I would leave these messages in the hope of getting 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 aim in leaving the messages was to get cocaine, and told the court he was introduced to the service by drug dealer connections.
He said during the Covid-19 pandemic, dealers weren’t on the roads and 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 carried out under the banner of Strike Force Hanks by officers from the NSW Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad
Defense lawyer 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 presented to the court and included material too vile to publish.
‘Yes, how are you doing mate?’ Finch asked in a message sent in November 2020.
‘My name is Brad, 35, masculine build, married. Love to have a hot chat, talk about real kinky, have a threesome with a cute 16 year old boy.’
In another, Finch said: ‘G’day mate, married guy 39, muscular body, would love to be outside, you and I swimming, cute little 16 year old surfer boy comes by.’
In December 2020, Finch sent messages describing a desire to perform sexual acts with a 12-year-old boy.
Finch admitted he used sex chat service FastMeet but said any messages he left saying he wanted physical encounters with teenage boys were “just bullshit”. He is pictured reporting on bail
Finch told police he was ‘on drugs’ when he made the footage, had not initiated any sexual conversation about children and any reference to him wanting to have physical encounters with teenage boys was ‘just bullshit’ .
The retired footballer stopped using the chat line in early 2021 after he received a reply from a user ‘who wanted to pick me up’ and mentioned ‘grandchildren’, the court heard.
The response made Finch realize that his behavior could contribute to pedophilia.
“It made me absolutely sick, I was disgusted,” he told the court.
‘I told him straight away that he was a sick f*** and that he needed to f*** off. I just wanted to strangle the guy over the phone.’
Finch said he was ashamed and disgusted at having left the messages in the hope of scoring cocaine.
“That period was when I really got 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 given his time freely to charities, but had now ‘lost everything’.
“I understand why nobody wants to get near me,” Finch said.
‘I have no one to blame but myself… it has hurt so many other people and that’s what I’m sorry for.’
Asked if he accepted his behavior was a ‘sloppy’ way to get drugs, Finch said: ‘It was a terrible method and one I am deeply ashamed of.’
Psychologist Chris Lennings told the court that Finch’s offending was not sexually motivated but that it was important the ex-footballer underwent ‘biological substance testing’, such as hair follicle tests, in the future.
“In my judgment, he does not present himself as having a sexual deviation,” said Dr. Lennings via audiovisual 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 Monday, two family friends of Finch testified, describing him as a loyal, kind and caring man whose abusive behavior was out of character.
Finch played 330 first grade games for the Raiders, Roosters, Eels and Storm in the NRL and Wigan in the British 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 breaches.
Finch’s crowning achievement came in the 2006 Origin opener when he kicked a match-winning field goal for the Blues.
After retiring from the league, Finch worked as a commentator for 2GB, Nine and Fox Sports, but eventually lost all of those jobs.
Judge Mahony will sentence Finch on November 23.