Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Man Is Cleared of One-Punch Attack on Australian Star

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Man Is Cleared of One-Punch Attack on Australian Star

Article excerpt

Byline: ELLIE CULLEN Reporter

ANEWCASTLE man accused of a one-punch attack on a former captain of Australia's Rugby Sevens team has been cleared at court.

Sam Oliver, 23, was accused of flooring James Stannard with a "king hit" - Australian slang for a single punch - outside a kebab shop in Sydney in the early hours of March 30.

The 35-year-old player struck his head on the pavement and suffered a fractured skull, spending two nights in hospital. He was unable to compete at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April.

Mr Oliver had denied recklessly causing grievous bodily harm and the alternative charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, claiming Mr Stannard hit him first and that he had acted in self-defence.

Following a three-day hearing at Sydney's Downing Centre, magistrate Richard Funston found he was "not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt this very serious charge made out".

Describing it as an "unfortunate incident", he said: "There's no doubt alcohol played a huge part. I've no doubt we would not be here if it wasn't for the fact that alcohol was such a huge issue for both the complainant and the defendant." He added that many witnesses showed "blurred memories" in their accounts of what happened.

During his evidence, Mr Oliver said he had been hit in the eye by Mr Stannard "out of the blue", and that he had reacted "instinctively".

He alleged the sportsman had approached him outside the Erciyes kebab shop in the suburb of Coogee and called him a "pommy c***".

He said: "When I said something back he got more aggressive, more effiing and blinding ... His whole body language changed and I was hit." He added: "I didn't expect to be hit. I didn't see it coming ... I reacted pretty much straight away. It must've been like instinctively to protect myself."

Prosecutors disputed the claims that Mr Stannard had thrown the first punch, and said Mr Oliver had launched an "unsuspecting attack" on the rugby player. …

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