Former NRL bad boy Jamil Hopoate has narrowly avoided being sent to jail for domestic violence offences after the court heard he had been forced to give up on his footy dreams to follow in the footsteps of his famous family.
There was a fresh twist when Hopoate was due to appear at Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on Friday, with his barrister revealing the 26-year-old had contracted Covid-19.
Hopoate was due in court to be sentenced for the assault of his partner, which occurred in front of a child, at the Panthers Port Macquarie club in December last year.
The former Brisbane Bronco spent three months in custody for unrelated charges earlier this year and was only recently released on bail, the court heard.
He was facing being sent back to jail but Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson instead sentenced him to a 12-month sentence to be served in the community by way of an intensive corrections order.
Hopoate appeared via videolink from his parents’ northern beaches home in Sydney, where he sat in front of a wall of boxing posters, including one of his infamous father John holding a title belt.
Jamil had hoped to follow in the path of his dad, and his brother Will, who both played rugby league for their state and country.
He played 12 games for the Broncos, however was not offered a new deal by the Queensland club when his contract expired in November 2020.
A month later, he assaulted his partner outside the club during a drunken incident.
“His family are a particularly well known rugby league family who played at the highest level,” his barrister Evan James said.
“It’s a hard thing to be told he will not play and not achieve the same level as his father and his brother. This caused issues and he responded inappropriately.”
The court heard Hopoate had accepted responsibility for his actions, with Mr James describing them as “disgraceful” while emphasising Jamil was not seeking to shift the blame.
Mr James said Hopoate’s offending was a result of his depression and alcohol issues.
He pleaded guilty to seven offences, including two counts of common assault – domestic violence related, one count of common assault, two counts of stalking/intimidation, driving without a license and mid-range drinking driving.
Hopoate was arrested after he was thrown out of Panthers Port Macquarie on December 28.
He admitting to assaulting his partner Shae Beathe in the club parking lot, in front of a young child, before he sped off.
According to a statement of agreed facts, the pair was having dinner at the club before Hopoate went to the pokies room where he continued drinking.
When Ms Beathe came to ask him to take their family home, he became argumentative, snatching her bank card, bending it and throwing it on the ground, prompting security to step in.
CCTV caught the moment Hopoate spat at Ms Beathe, which hit both his partner and the security guard.
He was thrown out, but the altercation continued in the parking lot, where he unleashed a verbal tirade and slapped Ms Beathe.
Ms Beathe was escorted to her car by security and when Hopoate saw her approaching, he let loose with a verbal threat at the guards.
“What are they going to do? I will bash them,” Hopoate said, according to a statement of agreed facts.
Hopoate struck Ms Beathe on the face with an open palm, knocking her to the ground.
Ms Beathe told police she did not want to make a statement, however the incident was captured on CCTV.
She was taken to hospital as a precaution and Hopoate’s car was seen driving slowly past the entrance.
He was eventually pulled over on the Oxley Highway at Port Macquarie and recorded a blood alcohol reading of 0.095, nearly two times the legal limit.
The court heard he had apologised to his victims in a letter which was tendered to the court.
Mr James argued Hopoate should not be sentenced to a full-time custodial sentence.
He proposed a lengthy community corrections order, including strict conditions that he abstain from alcohol, undergo psychological treatment, relationship counselling and anger management therapy.
“He’s very much under his father’s thumb, if he steps out of line, his father’s wrath will be far greater than anything the court could impose,” Mr James said.
“I doubt that,” Ms Atkinson quipped back.
The prosecution argued that his crimes were deserving of a full-time jail sentence, noting that Hopoate was in 2014 jailed for an unprovoked attack outside a Manly hotel.
Ms Atkinson described his spitting offence as “disgusting” and said domestic violence must be denounced.
“We must always say it’s wrong,” she said.
But she took into account his early guilty plea and expressions of remorse.
Hopoate was sentenced to a 12-month intensive corrections order, including performing 250 hours of community service and abstaining from alcohol.
He was also fined $2100, suspended from driving and ordered to have an interlock device fitted on his car.