Prominent human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC has described Essendon coach James Hird as heroic for accepting his 12-month AFL ban.

But AFL lawyer Jeff Gleeson SC has blasted Burnside for saying that Hird had not pleaded guilty to any charges.

Burnside and fellow lawyer Steven Amendola have again criticised the league over its handling of the Essendon supplements scandal.

"He (Hird) has been brutally maligned in the press over the past six months - I don't know how he has managed to survive it - and he has wanted to show that he is not guilty of anything," Burnside told 3AW.

"But against that, he wanted to do the right thing by the club and the game.

"I reckon what he did ... was nothing short of heroic."

That prompted a strong reaction from Gleeson, who was a key member of the AFL's legal team that handled the Essendon case.

"For Mr Burnside to say that James Hird has not pleaded guilty to anything and that in substance the charge was withdrawn is flat out wrong," Gleeson told Fairfax Media.

"Anybody who wants to know what James Hird agreed he did should read the words from the signed document that have been publicly released."

Burnside was also again critical of how the investigation unfolded.

"I don't like what I saw ...(there was) not a great sense of natural justice ... What I saw worried me a lot," he said.

Burnside and Amendola have been among Hird's advisers during the supplements crisis.

Amendola was insistent that the AFL did not find Hird guilty, but rather reached an agreement on his 12-month suspension.

"Fact: he did not admit any charge. Fact: he was not found guilty of breaching (AFL rule) 1.6. Fact: the charges were withdrawn against him," Amendola told ABC radio.

"What happened was there was a negotiation and an agreement about consequence.

"There was no individual finding against him, in terms of a breach of 1.6."

The AFL announced a range of penalties against Essendon, Hird and two other club officials on Tuesday night after two days of intense negotiations at AFL House.

They are the most severe set of penalties in the game's history.

Amendola remains furious about Hird's treatment since the crisis became public on February 5.

"My client has been baseball-batted half to death in the media for six months," he said.

He disagreed sharply with a comment from AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou, who described the joint AFL and Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigations into Essendon as a template for dealing with this sort of problem.

"I would have thought, having regard to the way in which this investigation has unfolded, that any AFL club in the future would run a mile from having a joint investigation," Amendola said.

"This joint investigation, in my opinion, has been a farce of an investigation."

 

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