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Greg Bird set free -

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ELEANOR HALL: To the District Court in Sydney now where a judge has just handed down the decision
on the appeal by rugby league star Greg Bird against his conviction for assault.

Last June the former Cronulla Shark and Australian representative was sentenced to 16 months in
jail for recklessly wounding his girlfriend Katie Milligan by smashing a glass into her face.

Both had claimed the incident, in August last year, was a drunken accident that had occurred during
an argument in their Cronulla flat.

But during this week's appeal, Ms Milligan says she falsely accused a flatmate in order to protect
her high-profile boyfriend from going to jail.

The ABC's court reporter Liv Casben is at the court and joins us now.

So Liv, what did the appeal judge rule?

LIV CASBEN: Judge Michael Finnane ruled that both Milligan and Bird were witnesses of truth,
Eleanor. Neither had given evidence, as you'd know, on legal advice at the earlier hearing. But
with this jail term hanging over Greg Bird's head both were allowed to offer fresh evidence, Judge
Michael Finnane ruling that that was in the interests of justice.

Now the judge said Ms Milligan was forthright, intelligent, she made up her own mind, exhibited no
signs of a person who was a victim of domestic violence. Indeed, he said if anyone was the dominant
party in this relationship it seemed to be Ms Milligan. So he believed both accounts of that night
that it was indeed an accident, that she'd been injured after she lunged at him. That he grabbed
her wrist in self defence.

Now of course he's a strong man, he's a rugby league player. The glass somehow broke. Neither of
them could offer an explanation as to exactly how. The judge did offer a couple of scenarios
himself. He said perhaps Greg Bird's arm forced Katie Milligan's arm back into her face, perhaps
when she withdrew her arm that that caused the glass to break.

But whatever happened he concluded that it was quick and he found that Greg Bird was clearly
attempting to avoid domestic violence. He didn't strike at her or shout at her and then, as we
know, they unfortunately to their peril blamed their flatmate Brent Watson and the judge described
that as a foolish and reckless thing to do.

They did that though in the mistaken belief that this case would not be investigated if Milligan
didn't lay charges. That came despite the fact Milligan had previously studied law. Bird was also
facing this charge of making an accusation intending for a person to be investigated, knowing that
the other person wasn't guilty of the offence. The judge this morning also set that aside.

So the Crown failed, he said, to prove that Bird had intended for Brent Watson to be investigated
and as I said earlier they'd hoped instead it would all go away. But as the judge found, lie led to
lie, things didn't go away and it became patently obvious that police were not going to let things
alone.

Apologies for the sirens in the background but we are in the court precinct.

ELEANOR HALL: It's very active down there where you are Liv. But now how did Greg Bird and Katie
Milligan react to the judgement?

LIV CASBEN: Understandably both greatly relieved. Greg Bird put his head down as if to say thank
goodness this is all over. He did speak briefly outside court as well. He thanked his family, his
friends, his supporters, his legal team and also his fans, of which there are no doubt many in
Australian rugby league.

In the courtroom itself though after the decision was handed down, and the judge had intimated
during the course of the one hour or so judgement, so it came as no great shock when he finally
said, I clear you of these charges, but at the end he put his head down, he bowed his head and then
he turned around and I think Katie Milligan may have even mouthed the words "I love you", it was
hard to see, but it seemed to be those words.

And then at the conclusion of the proceedings he got up and he hugged his family. His mother was in
court too, she shed a few tears, they all embraced and then they came out, or at least Greg Bird
came out briefly to speak to the media.

And he's only just left actually. I guess what this does do now is potentially open the way for him
to return to Australian rugby league in Australia. As you may know Eleanor, he is currently playing
for the Catalan Dragons in France but that contract is just about to expire. So no doubt there'll
be many a person knocking on his door, potentially even as early as this afternoon.

ELEANOR HALL: Liv Casben at the Sydney Distinct Court there, thank you.