Drug abuse ‘robs’ TV star of fortune

Court- Andrew O'Keefe
Andrew O'Keefe denied he was an angry man. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

Former TV host Andrew O’Keefe has suffered a dramatic fall from grace after going from one of Australia’s most loved presenters to a convicted domestic violence abuser.

The 52-year-old was sentenced to four community corrections orders on Wednesday after Magistrate Alison Viney found he had assaulted and spat on a woman during a “frightening and degrading” attack in 2021.

She convicted the former host of Channel 7’s Deal or No Deal of common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and contravening an apprehended violence order.

O’Keefe became agitated in the courtroom and muttered angrily as the magistrate found he had kicked and spat on a woman in her Sydney home in September 2021.

Andrew O'Keefe has been convicted of domestic violence and drug offences. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

The court heard he had been staying with the woman, who cannot be identified, when they argued and he was asked to leave.

The former host of Weekend Sunrise forcefully shoved the woman against a doorway, injuring her hand and wrist.

The court heard he then lashed out at the woman and kicked her hard in the leg, causing her to fall down.

While she was on the ground, O’Keefe put his hands on her chest and held her down while she shouted for help.

“Good riddance,” he told her before he spat at her.

The woman described the violent assault as “frightening and degrading” and a neighbour who went to check on her testified she was “really shaken”.

“She was in a lot of shock and fear,” the neighbour said.

“She had scratches up her arms and marks on her chest … she was limping”.

He has been sentenced to four community corrections orders. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

The former Channel 7 star told the court he thought the woman’s injuries were self-inflicted.

Ms Viney said he had “constantly appeared to downplay his own actions” while giving evidence in his hearing, particularly “with regard to his emotional response … and situations which were not going the way he wanted them to.”

She noted he had “denied getting angry with the woman at all” during the altercation, despite police video footage and witness accounts to the contrary.

From ambassador to abuser

The magistrate told O’Keefe his actions were “absolutely condemned” by the court.

“You treated (the woman) … with disrespect,” she said.

“Your actions were violent and degrading.”

“You placed her in a position of fear, not only for herself but for her children in their own home.”

Ms Viney sentenced O’Keefe to a 12-month community corrections order and three 18-month community corrections order for the domestic violence offences.

The court heard it was the first conviction for the long-time Channel 7 presenter despite previous run-ins with the law.

He had previously been accused of domestic violence in January 2021, but the charges were dismissed on mental health grounds.

On Wednesday, Ms Viney found the initial allegations of domestic violence bore a striking similarity to the assault for which O’Keefe has now been convicted.

He now finds himself guilty of an offence against which he publicly rallied for years as the former chairman of the White Ribbon Australia organisation, which aims to prevent violence against women.

He was an ambassador for the charity from its inception in 2007 until it was dissolved in 2019.

Drug addiction

On Wednesday, the court heard O’Keefe had a clean record until three years ago when he became involved with illicit drugs.

Ms Viney found his drug addiction had “robbed him” of his successful and high-profile media career.

On Wednesday, the magistrate also convicted O’Keefe of being in possession of two illegal drugs, which were found in his apartment when he was arrested two days after the violent assault.

She fined him $800 and noted the former TV personality’s rehabilitation was “an ongoing concern”.

“Mr O’Keefe will continue to be susceptible to drug relapse, and unless he is vigilant to the warning bells … we may well see him back before the criminal justice system,” Ms Viney said.

O’Keefe is the former host of game show The Chase. Picture: Channel 7
O’Keefe is the former host of game show The Chase. Picture: Channel 7

The former host of The Chase previously spent five months in residential rehabilitation centre Global Connect near Port Stephens before undertaking an extended at-home program.

His lawyer acknowledged there have been “a couple of hiccups” along the way to recovery, but assured Ms Viney that his client was committed to seeking treatment for his addiction.

The court heard O’Keefe is also seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar affective disorder, for which he requires daily medication.

“I accept your mental health condition may have contributed to your actions,” Ms Viney told him.

His response

Outside court on Wednesday, O’Keefe denied that he was an angry man.

“I’ll be lodging an appeal,” he told reporters as he walked away.

He is required to seek treatment for his mental health and drug addiction issues as he serves his four concurrent community sentences.

The formerly high profile media personality is also required to be of good behaviour for the 18 month period, as any further breaches could result in his arrest.