Claiming a man threw a “coward punch” at former rugby captain James “Chucky” Stannard–a punch that fractured Stannard’s skull and ended his sports career–was defamatory, an Australian court ruled. Now, Australia’s Channel Nine network must pay the man $100,000 Australian.
The man, Sam Oliver, sued over the March 2018 Nine report about him punching Stannard. Oliver claimed he acted in self-defense and was found not guilty of assault in September 2018, the BBC reported at the time. According to that report, Oliver said Stannard punched him first so he punched back, but Stannard denied punching him. Stannard fractured his skull and ended up retiring from professional rugby.
Nine defended its reporting as fair opinion and in the public interest, according to the BBC. iMediaEthics has written to both Nine and Oliver’s lawyer.
Australian Federal Court Judge Michael Lee ruled “The broadcast was pregnant with the notion that Mr Oliver had done something wrong which caused a sporting hero to suffer misfortune,” according to the Australian Associated Press.
Channel Nine’s reporting in question claimed, “It was a coward punch that ended the career of Rugby Sevens captain James Stannard and today he suffered another blow as the man who threw it was cleared of all charges.” The judge ruled that it was defamatory because it suggested he was a coward and “Engaged in the serious act of punching a defenceless man causing him significant injury, ending his career as a professional athlete,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported.