Sam Burgess has avoided recording a conviction for driving with cocaine in his system in February and will remain on the road despite a history of 32 traffic offences since the former NRL star arrived in Australia in 2010.
Burgess pleaded guilty to three driving charges on Tuesday at Moss Vale Local Court after he was pulled over by police and tested positive for cocaine on February 22.
He was initially charged with two offences – driving without a licence and using an unregistered vehicle – after he was pulled over on the Hume Highway in the Southern Highlands.
He was later charged with drug driving in April after a secondary saliva test confirmed the positive roadside test to cocaine.
On Tuesday, Burgess was handed two $581 fines for the earlier charges and a nine-month conditional release for the drug-driving charge.
He was also instructed to undergo a traffic offender program.
Court documents outlined Burgess’ lengthy traffic record, which contained 32 offences prior to February. All the offences were committed on his UK licence.
The records showed how Burgess had been caught with his mobile phone 10 times and was caught by speed cameras exceeding the limit 20 times between 2010 and 2020.
The records showed the fines were chased up by the state debt recovery office.
Burgess was only stopped by highway patrol in February because his car was not registered due to $1200 worth of debts being incurred.
The court heard on Tuesday that Burgess applied for an NSW licence two days after the February offences, which he received and continues to hold.
“The accused expressed surprise when informed the vehicle’s registration had been cancelled for non-payment of fines,” court documents from police read.
“The accused offered no excuse regarding not having obtained an NSW licence and he was subjected to a roadside breath and drug test with the latter returning a positive result to cocaine.”
Despite the long record, Magistrate Mark Douglass said four weeks at the Gold Coast Detox and Rehab Services made up for his past behaviour and had turned the former NRL star into a new version of himself.
He said that while Burgess did not help himself with the previous charges, he had done well to redeem himself.
“This a real dichotomy,” Mr Douglass said.
“There is a Sam Burgess before the 22nd setting a bad example in the community and for those who looked up to him and then there is a Sam Burgess after the 22nd ... undergoing a very strict regime into the non-use of drugs.”
The court heard how Burgess was under extreme pressure as a result of his divorce being publicly hashed out and that he had not seen his two children since the arrest.
“He was not driving around in a car that was unsafe, that had defects, that had not passed recent rego test,” Mr Douglass said while handing down his sentencing.
Earlier this year, the former NRL star was acquitted on appeal of intimidating his former father-in-law.
Burgess’ lawyer Bryan Wrench said the wrongful conviction was to blame for the drug use and was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
“There is no suggestion at all of any aggravating factors, no speeding, no swerving, there is no sign of intoxication of alcohol or illicit substance whatsoever,” Mr Wrench said.
He said his client had participated in a hair test and provided clean urine tests before and after the charges in an effort to prove the drug-taking was not a matter of systemic conduct.
“There has also been a number of media reports that he’s been under the influence, which is not true, only trace amounts were found,” Wrench said in court.
What in the World
A note direct from our foreign correspondents about what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for our weekly newsletter here.