Lawyers for Sam Burgess have won the right to access all communications between a newspaper that published a bombshell report about the rugby league star and his wife and father-in-law.
The former South Sydney Rabbitohs star, 31, will next Monday fight charges he intimidated his father-in-law Mitchell Hooke at his home in the Southern Highlands in October last year.
But Magistrate Ian Cheetham this week made a major decision – confirmed to Daily Mail Australia – which raises the stakes of what is shaping up to be one of the most explosive celebrity legal battles in years.
A report in The Australian last month made claims about Burgess’ alleged party habits, directly quoted his father-in-law and a 50-page police report that had been submitted by his wife.
Magistrate Cheetham this week ruled Burgess’s lawyers will be granted access to any communications between the newspaper and the pair.
‘His Honour made orders granting access to the parties to the subpoenaed material,’ a spokeswoman for NSW Courts said.
Lawyers for Sam Burgess (on right) have won the right to access communications between The Australian newspaper and his estranged wife, Phoebe, and father-in-law, Mitch Hooke
Burgess will face a hearing into charges he intimidated and assaulted his father-in-law Mitchell Hooke at Moss Vale Local Court next week. Mr Hooke and his daughter Phoebe will give evidence at the hearing
The subpoena will compel Phoebe and Mr Hooke to provide any communication they had with The Australian.
It is part of an attempt by Burgess’s team to uncover all details of the timing, making and distribution of Phoebe’s statement to police.
The statement contained untested claims about his lifestyle and accusations about his conduct to his 31-year-old wife, and parts were published in the newspaper.
Burgess’s solicitor, Bryan Wrench, told the court last month that the release of Phoebe’s statement was an attempt to ‘ambush’ his client.
He has in suggested in court that the statement was ‘orchestrated propaganda’ and said it was made to police just days prior to it appearing in The Australian.
The significance of the magistrate’s decision is that Mr Hooke and Ms Burgess may be grilled about any involvement they had in the article in court.
Burgess’s legal team wants to cross examine Mr Hooke and his daughter about any inconsistencies between what they may have told The Australian and what they said to police in October last year.
Barrister Philip Strickland SC for Burgess told Magistrate Cheetham last Monday that ‘it was on the cards’ that either Mr Hooke, 64, or Ms Burgess were in communication with the newspaper about the story.
Lawyers for Sam Burgess (pictured) will attack the credibility of his father-in-law when charges of intimidation and assault against the footballer are heard next week. Burgess, 31, smiled last month as he held hands with daughter Poppy, three, and son Billy, one
Philip Strickland SC, for Burgess, accused the footballer’s ex-wife Phoebe (right) and her dad Mitchell Hooke (left) of speaking to The Australian newspaper before a bombshell article
Burgess’s solicitor Bryan Wrench (left, walking into Picton Local Court on Monday) made similar claims last month
Mr Strickland told the court Mr Hooke had spoken to a journalist about allegations against his son-in-law knowing that would result in damage to Burgess’s reputation
Burgess’s lawyers are poised to attack Mr Hooke’s credibility when the hearing into the footballer’s charges is held on Monday.
Philip Strickland SC for Burgess told Picton Local Court last week that Mr Hooke’s credibility would be a ‘critical issue’ at the hearing.
‘It will be suggested fair and square to Mr Hooke that he is a biased witness or that he has a bias against the accused,’ Mr Strickland said.
Mr Hooke is the father of Burgess’s ex-wife Phoebe with whom the Englishman shares two children.
Mr Strickland said Mr Hooke had spoken to a journalist about allegations against his son-in-law knowing that would result in damage to Burgess’s reputation.
Burgess is pleading not guilty to the intimidation charge against Mr Hooke, who is also the subject of an interim apprehended violence order protecting him from the retired South Sydney captain.
Burgess is also pleading not guilty to a back-up charge of common assault laid over the same alleged incident at 64-year-old Mr Hooke’s home last October.
Mr Wrench discusses legal matters outside Picton Local Court on Monday, where he will return next week for a hearing
Non-publication orders related to statements made by Mr Hooke and Phoebe Burgess as well as a Triple Zero call made by her were issued by magistrate Ian Cheetham in Picton Local Court
Ms Burgess’s 50-page statement to police contained unrelated allegations of domestic violence.
While parts were published in The Australian, it has never been tendered in full to a court.
Mr Strickland said ‘it was on the cards’ that either Mr Hooke or his daughter – or both – were in discussions with the newspaper prior to the article’s publication.
Mr Hooke had been quoted about last year’s alleged confrontation with Burgess in the article.
‘He has made statements to The Australian about this incident,’ Mr Stickland told the court.
‘Your Honour, it is on the cards that both Mitchell Hooke and Phoebe (Burgess) have communicated to The Australian.’
Solicitor Bryan Wrench, for Burgess, last month told Moss Vale Local Court the publication of Phoebe’s statement was part of an attempt to ‘ambush’ his client.
Mr Wrench accused Phoebe or her father of leaking the allegations about Burgess which were published in The Australian on October 2 and 4.
He had sought access to Phoebe’s statement and objected to it having appeared in the media without being tendered in court.
Burgess’s legal team wants to cross examine Mr Hooke and his daughter about any inconsistencies between what they told The Australian and what they said to police in October last year.
‘The circumstances of the release of that statement confirm the animosity towards my client,’ Mr Wrench said.
‘They’ve tried to ambush us.’
Mr Wrench said police had confirmed to him that Phoebe made the statement in late October, just days before some of its contents were published.
‘A statement was made on a certain date and that statement was given to The Australian,’ Mr Wrench told the court.
‘The police at no point released that statement to The Australian.’
Burgess was joined by Luke and his daughter Grace at Air Locker Training in Bondi on October 15, the first time he had been seen in public for some weeks (pictured)
Phoebe Burgess returned to Instagram on October 11 after a 10-day absence, posting two photos taken at her parents’ Southern Highlands estate. She is pictured with daughter Poppy
Mr Wrench has suggested the document was deliberately leaked to the media ahead of the intimidation and assault charges being heard.
‘There’s been nothing done about the investigation of why the statement was released,’ Mr Wrench said.
Police prosecutor Inspector Jamie Palmer said Phoebe’s statement did not form part of the intimidation and assault case or AVO application against Burgess.
Instead it was being used in a separate investigation into the 2014 NRL premiership winner’s behaviour.
Mr Wrench has previously suggested Phoebe Burgess or her father Mr Hooke might have committed contempt of court by co-operating with the media.
The lawyer first raised his concerns about the father and daughter’s conduct during an earlier mention of the intimidation and assault charges and AVO on October 7.
Mr Hooke is pictured driving a ride-on wheelbarrow around his Southern Highlands property, where Sam and Phoebe married in 2015
Mr Wrench said Phoebe’s police statement had not been filed in court or provided to Burgess but was quoted at length by The Australian in what he described as ‘orchestrated propaganda’.
‘To be quite blunt, it appears that this is born out of either malice or retaliation,’ Mr Wrench told the court.
He said his client ‘categorically denied’ the allegations of domestic violence made in the statement.
Burgess has not been required to appear in court for any of the mentions of the charges or AVO and neither has his father-in-law or ex-wife.
He was hit with an apprehended violence order taken out by police on behalf of Mr Hooke after an alleged confrontation between the pair on October 19, 2019.
Mr Wrench has previously accused Mr Hooke of making false allegations against his client, saying there had been ‘no violence, no intimidation, no threats’.