Australian rugby star Kurtley Beale has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman he met in a Bondi pub.
A New South Wales District Court jury on Friday acquitted Beale, 35, of one count of sexual intercourse without consent and two counts of sexual touching.
The jury took just one hour to reach their verdict on the alleged incident, which they said occurred in December 2022 at the Beach Road Hotel in Sydney’s east.
Beale’s accuser was expected to marry her partner on Friday.
At trial, Beale’s lawyer, Margaret Cunneen SC, claimed the 29-year-old woman had consented and was “in control” of the encounter and had made the accusations to gain sympathy.
Kurtley Beale with his lawyer Lauren McDougall. He has been found not guilty of all three charges.
“I’m not afraid to suggest that she is a manipulative woman who set up the circumstances of the night to change the situation, to become a victim,” he said Thursday.
He later added: ‘This is a woman who is a very good actress. She’s manipulating (Mr. Beale), she’s putting words in her mouth. Mr. Beale doesn’t lie, he didn’t lie.
In his closing speech, Cunneen focused on one of the key aspects of the trial: a secretly recorded phone call during which Beale first learned of the allegations.
In the call, the woman told Beale that she had not consented to the sexual act. At first, she said the pair were “connected,” before admitting that she had “misjudged the situation.”
Cunneen told jurors Thursday that Beale’s interpretation of the situation the night before the call was that the sex act in the bathroom was “totally consensual.”
“He truly believed that she had given and communicated her consent… When she said something different (on the call), Mr. Beale says he must have misinterpreted it,” she said.
He previously said: “Of course he has a guilty conscience, his wife knows what is going on in the phone call.” If you’re looking for a guilty conscience, of course you’ll find it.
“But if a guilty conscience is due to something done in the marriage, that is not ideal and has nothing to do with a guilty mind for a serious crime.”
Critically, Ms Cunneen said the call went to the police without having proven one of the three elements of the offence, as he would have known the woman did not consent.
The jury was also shown handwritten notes, which were made by the woman before the call, in which she wrote that her purpose was to “convince him that she is guilty and not innocent.”
In his speech, Cunneen dismissed the groping charge as “blink and you’ll miss it,” and said an alleged second act in the bathroom was “absurd” because of the timing.
During her testimony, the woman vehemently denied Cunneen’s claim that she used the claims to gain sympathy from her fiancé, with whom she had had a serious argument.
Cunneen went on to add that the woman was unable to admit disparities between her statements to police and confessions to her family, and CCTV footage played out in court.
Notable in the defense case was the woman’s claim shortly after the night that it was Mr. Beale who followed her into the bathroom. The video proved the opposite.
The footage, played in court, captured the drunken night at the popular Sydney bar, including the four minutes and 30 seconds Beale and the woman spent together in the bathroom.
The jury was told that both she and Mr Beale were drunk that night, but Mr Tunks told them they were not allowed to consider that.
For his part, Crown prosecutor Jeff Tunks told jurors that the woman had presented herself as a “challenging” witness who was “somewhat firmly consistent in her statements.”
Tunk had encouraged the jury to consider accepting parts of the woman’s evidence, without having to accept everything she said in court or to police and family.
The sentencing marks the end of a grueling, weeks-long trial for the jury, which deliberated for about an hour. They heard the testimony of the woman, her fiancé, her family, and the family of her fiancés.
Importantly, it marks the end of a year-long court saga for Beale after Rugby Australia dropped him from the NSW Waratahs following his arrest in January 2023.