UK tourist Sam Oliver wins Australian defamation case

A British tourist who was acquitted of assaulting Australia’s former Rugby Sevens captain James Stannard has won a defamation case against a TV network.

Sam Oliver, from Newcastle, said Australia’s Nine Network had wrongly depicted him as being guilty of a “cowardly” criminal act in Sydney.

He was found not guilty last year.

On Friday, a judge rejected Nine’s argument that its news report of the verdict was fair – ordering it to pay Mr Oliver A$100,000 (£54,000; $70,000).

The news report had described the incident as “a coward punch that ended the career” of Mr Stannard. It was introduced with the words “no penalty”.

Nine argued in court that it was a fair report and an expression of opinion relating to a matter of public interest.

However, Judge Michael Lee ruled that it had wrongly portrayed Mr Oliver as a coward who had punched a defenceless man and ruined his career.

Nine, one of Australia’s biggest networks, said it was “disappointed” and would consider an appeal.

‘Name dragged through mud’

Mr Oliver told the BBC last year that local media had portrayed him as a thug following the unprovoked fight.

He said Mr Stannard threw the first punch, giving him a black eye, and he had instinctively hit back.

“It was tough to deal with, seeing my name get dragged through the mud,” he said.

His lawyers had sought over A$250,000 in damages, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Judge Lee said the use of the term “coward punch” had conveyed a particular meaning that the puncher was “not only committing a violent act but also, distinctly, is contemptibly lacking the courage to act in a proper or fair way”.

Mr Stannard was treated for a fractured skull after the incident and retired from rugby last June.