Jury finds Field did not coerce teen to rob hotel
“A NIGHTMARE” is how former South Sydney, Manly and Tigers halfback Craig Field yesterday described the past 2½ years after a jury found him not guilty of staging an armed robbery.
The jury, after more than eight hours of deliberation, returned its verdict to the court at 4pm yesterday. Tears flowed from Field’s family and friends in the court while others, including Field, simply nodded.
The Crown had alleged Field had coerced a then 17-year-old boy to rob him at Wagga Wagga’s Sportsmen’s Club Hotel in February 2007.
Field, 36, had been facing two charges and yesterday, when Judge Stephen Norrish asked the jury’s spokesman for the decisions, his reply to each charge was “not guilty”.
Yesterday, one person on the jury of seven men and five women, who listened to four days of evidence last week, was still not convinced of Field’s innocence, making a unanimous verdict impossible.
NSW law, however, allows Field to walk away a free man on the jury’s 11-1 not guilty verdict.
"I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,’’ Field said later. ''It’s been a nightmare.
"Being an innocent person, I had my fate in the hands of 12 people. To go through this ordeal has been very tough on me personally but I can’t even begin to think what it’s been like for my wife and kids. I’ve gone about my normal business since the day I finished up work at the Sporties but being a high-profile player, I’ve just had to go around with my head held high.
“The support from my friends and family has been overwhelming and even through the trial, the support and text messages have been unbelievable. For everyone who doubted me, well, I hope I can just get on with my life.”
During the trial, the jury heard evidence from five police officers who attended the hotel on Kincaid Street shortly after Field’s triple-0 call on the night of February 18, 2007.
“I’ve just been held up,” Field told the operator.
A police hunt for the robber was launched and only minutes later, a then 17-year-old boy was arrested in a car on Evans Street, a cross street.
A little over $2500 cash was found inside the vehicle and the boy claimed to police he had been “set-up” by Field.
The teen, who is now aged 19 and is unable to be named due to his age at the time of the robbery, gave evidence which was discounted by the jury.
Outside the court, with his wife by his side, the former NRL star, who played for Souths, Manly, Balmain and Wests Tigers during his career, hinted it could be time for a change.
“I’ll consider my future in the town, I’ll do what’s best for my family,” he said.