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Briton accused of attacking ex-Rugby Sevens star tells court he was hit first

Sam Oliver, 23, is accused of flooring James Stannard with a single punch in Sydney in March.

James Stannard was punched to the ground by a British man during a night-out in Sydney, a court heard (Joe Giddens/PA)
James Stannard was punched to the ground by a British man during a night-out in Sydney, a court heard (Joe Giddens/PA)

The British man accused of a one-punch attack on a former captain of Australia’s Rugby Sevens team told a court the sportsman had hit him first “out of the blue” – and that he had reacted “instinctively”.

Sam Oliver, from Newcastle, said he was worried he was going to get “beaten up” by James Stannard and that he had wanted to protect himself.

The 23-year-old is accused of flooring Mr Stannard with a “king hit” – Australian slang for a single punch – outside a kebab shop in Sydney in the early hours of March 30.

Mr Stannard, 35, struck the pavement and suffered a fractured skull, spending two nights in hospital. He was unable to compete at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April.

Sam Oliver leaving Sydney’s Downing Centre (Ellie Cullen/PA)

Giving evidence during the second day of a hearing at Sydney’s Downing Centre on Tuesday, Oliver said Mr Stannard had “approached” him outside the Erciyes kebab shop in the suburb of Coogee.

He told the court: “(He) said: ‘Here’s another pommy c***’. I remember I said something along the lines of ‘You’re all pommys down the line’, just to give a bit back.

“When I said something back he got more aggressive, more f’ing 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.”

Oliver, who was living in Australia on a working holiday visa at the time of the incident, said he was told of Mr Stannard’s injuries during a police interview later that morning.

He added: “I felt bad that I might have hurt someone.”

James Stannard had been at the Coogee Bay Hotel with friends (Alex Britton/PA)

Prosecutor Burton Ko suggested alcohol had affected the Briton’s memory and that he was guessing about what had happened.

Oliver, who said he had eight to 10 pints during the night, said: “I would not have hit someone first. I came here (to Australia) to try and enjoy my life.”

The court heard that the Briton ran off following the incident and was chased by some of Mr Stannard’s friends.

Mr Ko said: “I put it to you that Mr Stannard did not hit you, and that you hit him. And you hit him not in retaliation.”

Oliver denied this, saying: “I would never want to hurt anyone.”

Mr Stannard, who announced his retirement from rugby in June, previously denied having a “degree of dislike for Englishmen” and said his last memory before waking up in hospital was of the band finishing playing at the Coogee Bay Hotel.

He had spent part of the evening at the venue with teammates and friends, and left at about 3am.

The incident took place outside Erciyes kebab shop (Alex Britton/PA)

On Monday, Mr Ko told the court that a group of people had congregated outside the kebab shop and that a witness had seen two men “arguing” on the footpath.

Mr Ko said: “He saw what he describes as a blonde man – which the crown says was the accused – take three quick steps towards the bald man and ‘king hit’ him.

“The prosecution says that James Stannard fell to the ground, cracked his head on the concrete footpath, he lost consciousness and started bleeding from his right ear.”

Oliver has denied recklessly causing grievous bodily harm and the alternative charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The hearing, which is expected to conclude on Wednesday, continues.

Press Association

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