Sevens fan suing Australian broadcaster over ‘coward’ jibe

By Alex Dudley

An English rugby sevens fan is suing for defamation over the use of the term “coward punch” on a news report. The fan has since been acquitted of assaulting a former rugby sevens captain.

A court in September found that Sam Oliver had acted in self-defence when he retaliated from an attack from James “Chucky” Stannard, 35, outside a Sydney fast-food shop. The event took place on the 30th Match 2018 in the early hours of the morning.

Oliver is now suing the Australian broadcaster Nine Network in the Federal Court over its wording used during the case. The caption was “No Penalty”, and the report began with the anchor saying: “It was a coward punch that ended the career [of Stannard]”.

Sixteen witnesses and a two-and-a-half-year trail began with the court siding with the 23-year-old, finding him not guilty. The Englishman had been on a working visa holiday, and the court heard how the vicious argument between the two had been over the word “Poms” – Australian slang to describe English people can be also be deemed derogatory.

The new hearing involving the news network is scheduled to begin on the 25th March in Sydney, with each party agreeing that it was a “meaning” case.

Mr Oliver in his statement has claimed that the broadcaster used intentional harm when referring to him as “a coward who punched a defenceless man causing him grievous injury”. He also rejects the claim that he ended the Australian’s career as an athlete.

He has also alleged that it made him out to be a coward who would have been guilty of a criminal assault had the truth come out at his trial. The media station constantly referred to him as being a “coward” even though he was found not guilty.

Oliver is claiming damages, stating he has been “greatly injured in his credit, reputation and occupation; and has been brought into public scandal, odium and contempt”.

The broadcaster has continuously denied that the report was capable of being defamatory against the defendant, but has repeated that if it was, it was only meant in a fair summary of the court proceedings.

Written by Alex Dudley

Photos: Social media

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