ARU concludes integrity investigation

by Staff Writer


The following is a summary of the issues involving Mr Kurtley Beale.

28 September 2014

On 28 September 2014, there was an argument on a flight from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo involving Kurtley Beale and several members of the Wallaby management group about the attire Mr Beale was wearing on the plane.

Following the incident, Wallabies Business Manager Ms Di Patston returned to Australia.

The ARU Integrity Unit began an investigation into the incident while the team was in Argentina. That investigation was put on hold at the request of Wallabies Head Coach Mr Ewen McKenzie until the team returned to Australia.

7 October 2014

On 7 October 2014 – the day the Wallabies returned from South America – Ms Patston filed a separate formal complaint with the ARU Integrity Unit relating to inappropriate text messages she alleged were sent to her by Mr Beale in June 2014.

Ms Patston provided the Integrity Unit with screenshots of two multimedia messages (MMS) that she alleged she received on 9 June. Ms Patston also provided screenshots of a text message conversation with Mr Beale, also on 9 June which included six text messages sent by Ms Patston to Mr Beale and five text messages received by Ms Patston from Mr Beale.

The ARU Integrity Unit commenced its investigation into the claims on the same day. Contact was made with Mr Beale’s agent and the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA).

The investigation proceeded on the basis that the allegations were extremely serious and the ARU has an obligation to treat such complaints seriously and investigate them using appropriate processes and with impartiality.

The ARU had a duty to investigate the complaints regardless of the fact that the text messages were sent four months prior to the complaint being made or the fact that Ms Patston and Mr Beale had previously dealt with the matter themselves without involving the ARU.

As part of the investigation the ARU took evidence from Ms Patston.

Ms Patston confirmed her allegation that she had received both MMS from Mr Beale.

9 October 2014

ARU advised Mr Beale that it would establish a Code of Conduct Tribunal, in line with the collective bargaining agreement with RUPA

The ARU and RUPA approached Judge Mark Williams SC to preside over the matter together with other Tribunal members, Mr Dominic Villa (ARU representative) and Mr David Giffin (RUPA representative). David Giffin was later replaced by Mr John Boultbee due to Mr Giffin being unavailable.

10 October 2014

ARU contacted Mr Beale’s lawyers in relation to a hearing date of Monday 13 October.

Mr Beale’s lawyers requested further time to prepare Mr Beale’s case.

13 October 2014

On 13 October, during a teleconference with the Tribunal members and Mr Beale’s lawyers, the hearing date was reset to Friday October 24.

The Tribunal set down a procedure for the parties to serve their evidence, with the ARU to serve its evidence in support of the complaint on Tuesday 14 October 2014 and Mr Beale to serve his evidence in response by Monday 20 October 2014.

In preparing ARU’s evidence, the ARU Integrity Unit was not able to get access to Ms Patston’s mobile telephone.

Separately, the ARU examined Ms Patston’s mobile phone billing records for June.

MMS and SMS sent by the phone in question are recorded (but as with any billing record, there is no record of received MMS or SMS).

Ms Patston’s mobile phone billing records showed a series of outgoing text messages to Mr Beale on 9 June in support of the screenshots provided by Ms Patston.

The billing records show that nine text messages were sent by Ms Patston to Mr Beale. The ARU asked Ms Patston for the remaining three SMS sent to Mr Beale on 9 June, and to date these have not been received.

20 October 2014

Mr Beale provided evidence of his case on 20 October 2014. Mr Beale’s evidence showed only one MMS being sent from Mr Beale to Ms Patston on 9 June.

22 October 2014

On 22 October, ARU engaged an IT forensic expert to determine if the discrepancies between the evidence of Ms Patston and Mr Beale could be resolved.

This report was provided to the Tribunal.

In the expert’s opinion, the discrepancies between the evidence of the parties and the phone records meant that it was inconclusive whether the second MMS had been sent by Mr Beale to Ms Patston on 9 June.

During the lead up to the Tribunal hearing, the ARU requested that Ms Patston and Mr McKenzie attend the hearing. They were not available to attend.

The Tribunal has no power to compel witnesses to attend if they are not employees of the ARU and at the time of the hearing, neither Ms Patston nor Mr McKenzie were ARU employees.

The ARU Integrity Unit requested that the IT expert examine Mr Beale’s mobile phone to determine whether the second MMS message was sent by Mr Beale to Ms Patston.

23 October 2014

The ARU requested that Mr Beale’s phone be handed over. However, Mr Beale’s solicitors confirmed that Mr Beale had lost his mobile phone in Argentina and that he could only provide his newer phone which only contained text messages that had been sent from July 2014 onwards.

Mr Beale’s newer phone did however contain images that had been backed up from his old phone and these included the photograph that had been sent by Mr Beale with the first MMS. The image that had been sent with the second MMS was not found on Mr Beale’s mobile phone.

On 23 October, the forensic expert stated that his analysis was inconclusive in that he could not confirm with any certainty, the definite existence or origin of the second text.

The Code of Conduct Tribunal required the ARU to make a recommendation in the event Kurtley Beale was found guilty of breaching the Code. The ARU Board of Directors resolved that the first text alone constituted a breach of the Australian Rugby Union’s Code of Conduct. , and therefore the ARU’s recommendation was that Mr Beale’s contract be terminated.

However, the ARU Board agreed that it would accept the judgement of Code of Conduct Tribunal.

24 October 2014

The Code of Conduct Tribunal made the following determination:

1. Kurtley Beale has been found to contravene the Code of Conduct, in that he sent an offensive photograph to an ARU employee and also to members of the Waratahs Rugby Team.

2. It is important to note that the evidence did not establish that a second, and more offensive, text and photograph had been sent by Mr Beale. Nonetheless, we consider there has been a serious violation of the Code of Conduct.

3. Mr Beale has conceded that he has foolishly breached the Code. He has however shown remorse both publicly and to the ARU employee concerned, and this is taken into account.

4. The Tribunal has discretion as to the sanction to be imposed for the breach. Taking into account the conduct, the unpleasant consequences that this episode has caused for the ARU Employee and Mr Beale, Mr Beale’s contrition, and the fact that he has effectively been suspended from recent matches already, we consider that a substantial fine is the appropriate sanction. The fine imposed will be $45,000.

The ARU accepted the findings and sanctions handed down by the Tribunal, consistent with its previously stated position.

31 October 2014

Mr Beale was found guilty of breaching Wallaby team protocols and fined $3,000, following an ARU Integrity investigation into a verbal altercation with members of the Wallaby management team on a flight on 28 September 2014.

The incident was deemed to be a moderate breach of team protocols and the ARU Integrity investigation found Mr Beale guilty of inappropriate public behaviour as a result of being rude and disrespectful of Wallaby management in public.

Other Matters

The Second MMS

All available evidence in relation to the existence of a second MMS was considered by the Tribunal.

However, the ARU notes that neither Ms Patston nor Mr Beale’s mobile phones that they were using at the time the text messages were sent in June have been provided. This is the primary reason why it has not been possible to establish who sent the second MMS.

There has been no evidence submitted to prove any other person created or sent the second image.

The ARU would consider reopening the investigation if more information came to light that warranted further action.

Ewen McKenzie

Former Qantas Wallabies Head Coach Mr McKenzie has answered a number of questions to clarify speculation about this issue.

This includes his statement that he did not know about the text message incident when it happened in June.

Mr McKenzie has stated that he was only made aware of the text message incident from June after the in-flight argument in September that involved Mr Beale and Ms Patston.

Di Patston

Ms Patston was hired by Mr McKenzie at the Queensland Reds in an administrative capacity.

Mr McKenzie has stated that when he hired Ms Patston, he undertook rigorous reference checks, and confirmed her extensive experience working in Government in Queensland for a 12-13 year period in a range of roles.

When Mr McKenzie joined the ARU in August 2013, he requested that three of his staff at the QRU also join the ARU as part of his off-field team.

The ARU agreed to this request and the three were employed by the ARU. This included Ms Patston who was employed in a role to oversee the administration and other business-related matters regarding the Wallabies, including team protocols and liaising with suppliers.

The role Ms Patston performed for the Wallabies was a new role in a structure that was different to previous Wallaby off-field structures.

Ms Patston was employed by the ARU, based on Mr McKenzie’s recommendation and his experience of working with her at the QRU.

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