GUILTY: Michael Varnum was found to have deliberately hit an opposition player twice to the head with his bat.A MAGISTRATE has lambasted former police officer Michael Varnum for his cockiness and arrogance after finding himguilty of twiceintentionally hitting an opposing player over the head with a cricket bat.
Varnum shook his head Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday as he was found guiltyof assault occasioning actual bodily harm after Jewells Tavern Beavers player Peter Lalor needed nine stitches and weeks of medical treatment after being hit during a match against Varnum’s Merewether side in the B5 City and Suburban competition last February.
Magistrate Robert Stone rejected Varnum’s claim that his bat had accidentally come into contact with Mr Lalor after the pair collided mid-pitch as Varnum was attempting to take a run.
Instead, the magistrate said Mr Lalor’s teammates, who played the game for fun, had given frank and honest evidence about how Varnum had lifted his bat above his head and cracked Mr Lalor on his skull as the victim lay prone on the wicket.
“They knew it for what it truly was –an intentional striking of their teammate,’’ Mr Stone said.
He had earlier remarked on Varnum’s testimony: “The accused was very sure of himself, almost cocky. He came across to me as being arrogant about his ability leaving the impression he was the best cricketer in the team.’’
Outside court, a tearful Mr Lalor said he was happy with the conviction and was still playing the game he loved.
“The worst part is my son has stopped playing but he will get there,’’ Mr Lalor said.
It was when Mr Lalor, the Beavers captain, was bowling to Varnum that the incident took place.
Varnum had hit a shot to cover and had taken off for a run when the pair collided mid-pitch.
Mr Stone said although there were some differences in evidence given by players, he found that as Varnum stumbled momentarily, Mr Lalor had fallen to the ground.
“At that point in time the accused used his bat with his right hand, raised it to shoulder height and with the face of the bat hit Mr Lalor to the top of the head and then repeated the strike of the bat to him again while stepping over him,’’ Mr Stone said.
“…it was an intentional act on each occasion.’’
Mr Stone was critical of Varnum’s testimony, who told the court he could remember when Mr Lalor had dropped a shoulder into him.
“He could remember what he said to the bowler, he could remember the collision and stepping over the bowler, he could remember grounding his bat at the crease, yet has no recall of what he did with the bat as he stepped over the bowler,’’ Mr Stone said.
“…he does not want to admit that in the heat of the moment that the bat was used to strike Lalor.’’
HURT: Peter Lalor in hospital after the incident.
Mr Lalor, who was supported in Newcastle Local Court byfamily and teammates, shed a tear after the guilty verdict was read out.
“The Beavers cricket team is the best cricket team in the world and we just play it to have fun and something like this should not be associated with cricket or sport at all,’’ he said.
MrLalor said he had recovered from his injuries and just wanted to get on with life.
“I don’t want someone else to get hurt the way that I got hurt,’’ he said.
“It was awful for my family and my kids so I just didn’twant him to hurt someone else.
“And I want people to be able to play sport for fun.”
Varnum, who played top grade for Merewether when hewon the Jimmy Dickinson Memorial Trophyfor best first grade batting average in 2006-07,did not wish to comment.
But he said he would be appealing the decision.
He is a former Newcastle police sergeant while some of his teammates are still serving officers.
Mr Lalor said he didn’t wish to get involved in what would occur to Varnum’s possible future playing cricket.
“I don’t think many people would want someone who does an act like that on a cricket field, or any sporting field for that matter,’’ he said.
“That is up to them.
“I have had enough of it now so I am happy for them to deal with it.’’
Sentencing submissions will begin in March.