Off-duty policeman pleads guilty to assaulting Hotel Illawarra manager

A serving NSW Police officer has confessed to assaulting the manager of a Wollongong pub during an off-duty night out with his girlfriend last year.

Leading Senior Constable Nathan Higgins pleaded guilty to a charge of common assault in Wollongong Local Court on Monday, while his girlfriend, Sasha May Carruthers, pleaded guilty to remaining in licensed premises as an excluded person.

Court documents reveal the pair were at Hotel Illawarra on the evening of May 28 when Carruthers approached the bar around 11pm to order a drink.

CCTV footage shows the pair had purchased at least three lots of drinks throughout the night; on this occasion, however, Carruthers tried to pay for the beverages with her passport.

Bar staff later told police it took some effort to explain to Carruthers her mistake, at which time she realised she didn’t have enough money.

An unknown person ended up paying for the drinks, however Carruthers soon returned for another round, this time rightly producing her debit card.

When told the minimum card limit was $20, Carruthers insisted bar staff charge her $20 for her drink so she could use the card.

Concerned at Carruthers’ behaviour, the bartender referred the matter to hotel manager Craig Atkins, who watched Carruthers for a few minutes before deciding she was intoxicated and should leave.

Carruthers made her way to the front door amicably together with Mr Atkins and a security guard, at which time they were joined by Snr Cst Higgins, who said “you’re both tough, picking on my missus”.

Snr Cst Higgins then walked outside, followed by Mr Atkins and the guard, and again accused them of “picking on” Carruthers.

Mr Atkins advised Snr Cst Higgins to “call it a night”, prompting the officer to push Mr Atkins “aggressively”.

Other security personnel physically removed Snr Cst Higgins from the hotel.

Carruthers then got into an argument with hotel staff and became verbally abusive towards them.

She was ordered to leave the pub multiple times but refused to go.

She and Snr Cst Higgins eventually left the scene. They flagged down a passing police car a short distance away and reported the matter, however police who reviewed the CCTV footage ultimately charged the Coledale couple with breaking the law.

They will face sentencing on April 21.