Rugby league stars face jail for brawl

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The Independent Online

Four Rugby League players caught brawling on camera were warned yesterday that they faced lengthy jail terms.

Footage from CCTV captured three Leeds Rhinos players, Chev Walker, 20, Ryan Bailey, 19, and Dwayne Barker, 19, clashing with Paul Owen, 24, of the Rochdale Hornets, outside a nightclub in Leeds last year.

The players, who pleaded guilty to violent disorder at an earlier hearing, were warned at Leeds Crown Court yesterday that they faced custodial sentences. Mr Recorder Paul Batty, who will sentence them today, said: "One thing which shines out loud and clear is the putting in of the boot to people on the ground to the upper body."

He told the players: "This court views this very seriously. It was a level of violence of a significant degree, late at night, in this city. I think you must understand this court is considering custodial sentences of some length."

The court was told how the brawl was sparked when Owen was allegedly "tricked" into handing over his mobile phone to an unidentified woman outside the Creation nightclub in Leeds in July last year. As he set about trying to recover his phone, the three Leeds players claimed they believed the woman was being assaulted and turned on Owen.

A violent fight ensued, captured on CCTV. Four minutes of footage showed Owen punching Barker to the ground. Barker's jaw was broken in the fight and he was knocked out. The players bowed their heads in the dock as the footage was played in court yesterday.

Adrian Waterman, for the prosecution, said: "What you see on the video is a sustained period of violence in a relatively quiet city centre street."

The players expressed deep remorse for their actions, according to their respective counsels.

Bailey and Walker have been selected to play for Great Britain later this year.