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HomeNewsTom Starling: Canberra Raiders star and brothers Jackson, Josh in court

Tom Starling: Canberra Raiders star and brothers Jackson, Josh in court

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An NRL star’s brother told the court he was worried police officers were going to kill the rugby league player when they repeatedly punched him in the face during a violent melee.

The three Starling brothers have fronted court to fight allegations about their roles in a massive brawl at a Central Coast bar which was broken up by a riot squad and several police officers.

Canberra Raiders hooker Tom Starling, 24, and his brothers Jackson, 26, and Josh, 21, fronted Sydney Downing Centre Local Court on Wednesday over their alleged roles in a violent brawl at the Shady Palms hotel in December 2020.

Tom and Jackson have both pleaded not guilty to resisting police in the execution of their duty.

Their brother Josh has denied three counts of resisting police and one charge of common assault.

A fourth man, Jesse Byrne, also pleaded not guilty to hindering police.

The violent melee allegedly took place when the Starling brothers were out with friends and family to celebrate a 21st birthday party at the hotel at Avoca Beach.

Josh told the court the altercation began when a security guard asked his mother to take a seat for Covid distancing and then called her a “f***ing slut”.

The youngest Starling heard the comment and angrily leapt to his mother’s defence.

“I got up and was yelling at him, saying, ‘What did you say to my mum? Don’t speak to my mum like that,’” he said.

CCTV footage played to the court shows the NRL star being punched in the face repeatedly by a riot officer as a crush of people fight around them.

The shocking video shows the riot squad and several police officers amid a crowd of struggling people that surges across the room.

A riot officer can be seen grabbing Tom Starling and continuing to hit him in the face while he stumbles backwards.

The Raiders hooker was then held in a headlock as a police officer punched him in the ribs, the court was told.

The court heard the officer, senior constable Daniel Drew, had admitted at a previous hearing he had “no reason to punch” Tom Starling at the time.

Josh Starling allegedly saw what was happening with his brother and kicked out at Constable Drew, striking his thigh “with force”.

Magistrate Daniel Covington said the police officer punching Tom Starling while he was in a chokehold was “clearly inconsistent with his duty” but noted the bar was a “hostile setting” at the time.

None of the police officers involved in the violent altercation have been charged, the court was told.

A police officer testified the professional standards committee is still conducting its investigation into the incident.

Josh told the court he witnessed his brother being repeatedly hit and kicked out at Mr Drew, striking his thigh “with force”.

He explained he was trying to put his body in between the officers and Tom in order to protect his older brother.

“I thought they were going to kill him,” Josh said.

He said he lifted his leg upwards several times to “stop them from attacking (Tom)” while his hands were restrained by cuffs.

The youngest Starling brother said he was then elbowed in the face and pushed to the ground.

His older brother Jackson said he was able to grab onto Tom as the crowd pushed together, but someone pushed his head down. When he was able to get his head free, he saw a police officer winding up to punch his brother in the face again.

“I was lucky enough as he was winding up for another one to grab his hand with my hand,” Jackson said.

“I was just trying to protect (Tom).”

When Jackson raised his arms into the air, he told the court that the police officer hit him and shoved him to the ground.

“I was pretty worried for all of our safety at this point in time,” he said.

“They were attacking me with knees and punches and everything while I was on the ground.”

The 26-year-old said he was handcuffed and walked out to the front of the venue “like (he) was a trophy”.

Both brothers conceded they had been drinking on the night, but denied they were incapacitated or unable to remember the events clearly.

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