A magistrate has accepted NRL star Josh Addo-Carr did not know he was breaking the law when he fired a shotgun during a camping trip with a group of friends at South Sydney player Latrell Mitchell’s property on the NSW mid-north coast.
Taree Local Court magistrate Allison Hawkins told Addo-Carr, 25, she had taken into account how he had posted on social media video footage of him shooting the firearm unaware he was doing the wrong thing.
Addo-Carr did not realise firing the shotgun for the first time in his life would be as problematic as it was, she said on Friday.
The Melbourne Storm and NSW State of Origin winger pleaded guilty to one count of using an unauthorised firearm and one count of failing to comply with ministerial orders relating to COVID-19 movement and travel restrictions in April last year.
The magistrate described 2020 as a difficult year because of coronavirus and the community would have considered it “a bit insulting” to see Addo-Carr with a group of guys enjoying a camping trip when most people were confined to their homes.
She said it was wrong to have had such an adventure when the community was suffering.
Addo-Carr was placed on a conditional release order without conviction to be of good behaviour for 12 months – the same penalty handed to Mitchell.
The magistrate accepted it was highly unlikely Addo-Carr would ever come before the courts again given the way he lived his life.
Outside court, defence lawyer Elias Tabchouri said Addo-Carr was happy with the result, apologised for his actions and wanted to move on with his life. Addo-Carr declined to comment.
Mr Tabchouri had earlier told the magistrate the NRL star had had a difficult past which he did not want aired publicly but he had overcome a number of challenges to be the success he is today.
He said Addo-Carr had been in the NRL bubble in Sydney before being allowed to travel to Kempsey to spend time with his wife, when his cousin contacted him to say he was having some problems.
Addo-Carr reached out to Mitchell before he and his cousin went to Mitchell’s property at Caffreys Flat, northwest of Taree, where they spent the night in April last year.
Mitchell, 23, pleaded guilty to giving a firearm to an unlicensed person and was sentenced in November.
Police began investigating after Addo-Carr posted photos and videos to his Instagram account showing the group of 12 friends sitting around a fire at the property, breaching coronavirus social distancing laws at the time.
Addo-Carr was shown in one video firing a shotgun.
Police charged him after finding he did not hold a current NSW firearms licence and was not permitted to possess or use a firearm.
The incident had taken place around a house on the property almost destroyed in a 2019 bushfire.
Police found 26 spent shotgun shells on the property and numerous empty beer and vodka pre-mix glass bottles used for target practice.
Both Addo-Carr and Mitchell were fined $50,000 by the NRL for bringing the game into disrepute and fined $1000 by NSW police for breaching coronavirus restrictions. Sixty per cent of the NRL fine was suspended.
Addo-Carr had been due to be sentenced in October for the firearms charge but the case was put back to Friday because he was in the NRL’s coronavirus bubble for the NRL grand final and State of Origin series.