THE year started with one former NRL star, once considered one of Newcastle's favourite sons, avoiding jail after his post-football life spiralled out of control into cocaine supply and addiction and ended with a jury hopelessly deadlocked in the rape trial of another former rugby league gun.
And in between there were murder convictions and acquittals, admissions and lies, horrific crimes, massive jail terms, tragic fatal crashes, a female teacher jailed for grooming a student, a photographer sentenced for assaulting models and a musician who used his status to groom and sexually assault 14 young women.
And, after serving 11 years in jail, a disgraced former Swansea MP and convicted paedophile was granted parole only to be returned to a cell a few months later for breaching his conditions. He was later charged with more historical sexual assaults.
From the highly publicised rape trial of former NRL star Jarryd Hayne, to former Newcastle Knight Jarrod Mullen being spared a jail term for supplying cocaine and the murder trials of Justin Fuller, Timothy Whiteley, Daniel Hawkins, Shane Holmes and Troy McCosker, these were the most horrific or engaging criminal cases of the past 12 months.
It was supposed to be the year of the murder trial in Newcastle courthouse, with the NSW Supreme Court expected to become an almost permanent fixture in the city to deal with a surge in homicides in the Hunter in the past few years.
But then the global coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020 and the judicial system - just like everything else - was forced to adapt, with the Supreme Court suspending jury trials between March and June.
That meant the long-awaited trial of Sayle Newson, accused of murdering Carly McBride at Muswellbrook in 2014 was again delayed, the proceedings now stretching into a fifth year.
When criminal jury trials resumed the first murder trial in the state to be heard before a socially distanced jury was in Newcastle Supreme Court, when Justin Fuller was ultimately acquitted over the stabbing death of Guy McCulloch at Belmont South.
Fuller had pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but not guilty to murder and said he was either provoked or acting in self-defence when he repeatedly stabbed Mr McCulloch through his car window in Beach Street in December, 2018.
Meanwhile in Sydney, Daniel Hawkins' murder trial for the shooting of Kenneth John Denniss at Maryland in 2018 was aborted in March when the jury became concerned about the then burgeoning coronavirus pandemic.
The trial started again in September and, after lengthy deliberations, Hawkins was acquitted of murder, with a jury finding he was acting in self-defence when he shot Mr Denniss during a dispute over a stolen motorcycle.
One of the most tragic cases of the last few years involved the murder of a 20-month-old girl at Tarro in June, 2018.
And in late November, after a trial in Newcastle Supreme Court, a jury were left with no doubt that it was Timothy Whiteley who had inflicted the injuries that caused the toddler's death.
Whiteley, who was in a relationship with the girl's mother, will be sentenced in February and faces decades behind bars.
He didn't get out of his car, but Troy McCosker, who was convicted of murder over the death of Wade Still, who was twice set on fire at Whitebridge in August, 2018, was jailed for a maximum of 36 years in December.
Meanwhile, the man who set Mr Still ablaze will be eligible for parole 10 years earlier because he pleaded guilty and gave evidence against McCosker at his trial.
As well as those murder convictions and acquittals, Paul Newburn - once charged with murder over the stabbing death of Glen Smith at Bolton Point in 2019 - pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was later jailed for a maximum of nine years.
And before the pandemic put a halt to jury trials, Shane Holmes' murder trial for the one-punch death of his mate, Chad Hadden, ended when the jury said they were deadlocked and it was "highly unlikely" they would reach a unanimous or majority verdict.
Mr Holmes will face a re-trial next month.
In September, Gateshead amateur photographer Allan Todd Cameron was jailed for raping two teenage girls more than 35 years ago and later sexually abusing young models in his makeshift backyard studio.
Judge Tim Gartelmann, SC, said the harm caused to Cameron's many victims had to be recognised when jailing him for 12 years with a non-parole period of eight years.
Katie Smith was a Hunter high school teacher in a position of authority and entrusted with keeping all of the students at her school safe.
But over a four-month period between late-2018 and early-2019, Smith, a then 26-year-old PE teacher, repeatedly and "egregiously" breached that trust.
She groomed a 14-year-old boy, friending him on Snapchat where they exchanged sexually explicit images and videos and arranged to meet him in an empty classroom and in the school holidays so they could kiss and she could expose herself and indecently assault him.
Smith, who fought to keep her name hidden from the public, was jailed for a maximum of three years and 10 months, with a non-parole period of two years and three months.
In November, Daniel "Jimmy" Hanson, who styled himself as "Jimmy Beloved", the frontman of Newcastle screamo/electronica band Falling for Beloved, pleaded guilty to using his status as a musician to meet, groom and sexually assault more than a dozen girls aged between 12 and 16 over a nine-year period. Hanson, now 34, pleaded guilty to 23 counts of sexual and indecent assault against 14 girls aged between 12 and 22. The most serious charges are two counts of persistent sexual abuse of a child, which carries a maximum of life imprisonment, and relate to two girls aged 12 and 14, who Hanson sexually abused for years while he was aged between 18 and 20.
Hanson will be sentenced in July during proceedings that are expected to run for a day and include victim impact statements from a number of the women he assaulted.
The year 2020 was an eventful one for disgraced former Swansea MP Milton Orkopoulos. Released on parole after 11 years behind bars for child sex and drug offences, Orkopoulos was almost immediately back in the news when he was charged with breaching the conditions of his parole.
When he was charged again, his parole was revoked. He was behind bars in June when detectives charged him with 15 historical sexual assault offences. More charges were laid and others withdrawn and he now faces 23 charges relating to four young boys.
And for Jarrod Mullen, the start of 2020 marked the final downward twist in a life that had spiralled out of control.
The one-time State of Origin rep and former Knights captain avoided jail for supplying 39 grams of cocaine at Cameron Park in 2018 when he was handed a three-year community corrections order in Wollongong Local Court. His four-year doping ban nearly expired, Mullen is said to be eyeing a comeback.
And then in November, the highly-anticipated rape trial of Jarryd Hayne, proceedings that garnered international attention due to Hayne's status as a footballer and code-hopping athlete, commenced before a jury in Newcastle District Court.
The trial ended two weeks later in dissatisfying fashion for all involved; a hung jury and no verdict.
As a defiant Hayne said as he stepped from Newcastle courthouse last year, he will "do it all again" in Sydney in March.
I told the truth. We'll do it all again.Jarryd Hayne was succinct as he stepped from Newcastle courthouse in December, a two-week rape trial and a hung jury behind him.