AFL blasted on Milne stance

Stephen Milne leaves court with his wife, Melissa, on July 5. Photo: Justin McManusA sexual assault expert who consulted the AFL on its Respect & Responsibility policy has lambasted the league for allowing Stephen Milne to resume playing while charged with rape, saying any player on such a charge should be stood down until the case is resolved.
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Carolyn Worth, from the Victorian CASA (Centres Against Sexual Assault) Forum, was among critics who said St Kilda’s management of Milne was confusing and potentially damaging. Another was former politician and ex-VFA star Phil Cleary.

“I think the AFL and the clubs need to have a serious think about what they do about these sorts of charges,” Worth, who was personally involved in helping the AFL author its policy to help address violence against women, said. ”They appear to have managed to sort out what they do about racism and drugs, but I think they still struggle with sexual assault.

“Of course you’re innocent until proven guilty, but these are very serious charges and I thought that they should have kept him stood down.

“I think the players need to get a better grip of the fact that they’re role models and that they shouldn’t have these sort of charges levelled at them. I don’t think it’s good role modelling for young guys to have somebody actually charged with four counts of rape and then allowed to continue with his job. It’s a difficult process to get charged with something like this.

“In most businesses you’re stood down if there are charges directed at you of sexual assault or harassment until they’re proven or disproven. You get stood down on full pay.”

Derek Humphery-Smith, of law firm Lander & Rogers, who led Andrew Lovett’s litigation against St Kilda after he was sacked in 2010 before successfully defending a rape case, said of Milne’s reinstatement: “That’s obviously an excellent outcome for Stephen Milne, who remains accused. It reflects a presumption of innocence that certainly the board of St Kilda Football Club at the time did not extend to Andrew Lovett.

“I think it’s completely understandable that Andrew would feel incredibly poorly treated by the club, but he didn’t have the length of service to the St Kilda footy club that Stephen Milne now has, and I’m sure he was judged differently as a result.”

Worth also referred to the Lovett case, saying: “The AFL and clubs have got rid of players for lesser things. StKilda got rid of Andrew Lovett and he was found not guilty [of rape].”

The Australian Olympic Committee on Friday pointed to a passage in its ethical behaviour by-law that states all team members must “not at any time be convicted of, or charged with, any serious offence involving violence … or any sex offence”.

There are several instances of aspiring Olympians being excluded from the national team, including swimmer Nick D’Arcy and cyclist Chris Jongewaard.

When the rape charges were laid against Milne last month his ex-coach, Grant Thomas, said the AFL should write new policy to help it deal more consistently and transparently with players facing criminal charges.

Cleary, meanwhile, said it was “confused and contradictory” for Milne to suddenly be allowed to play.

“It’s confused because they stood him down and then three weeks later said ‘now you can play’, when nothing had changed,” he said.

“It’s contradictory because, by standing the person down you’re saying it’s not in his, or the public’s, interest for him to play, but now you’re saying it is in the public’s interest, and his interest, to play.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.