THE man who king-hit former professional surfer Jake Sylvester during a night out last year looks set to avoid a jail term, despite a magistrate’s scathing assessment of the seriousness of the assault.
Billy Patrick Clay, 23, punched Mr Sylvester, the two-time Surfest Pro Junior champion, in the head outside The Family Hotel on February 24, “immediately” knocking him unconscious and forcing him to the ground where he struck the back of his head on the roadway, fracturing his skull.
“When you apply force to another human being it is a lottery,” Magistrate Peter Barnett, SC, said in Newcastle Local Court on Thursday.
Mr Barnett said Clay was lucky Mr Sylvester hadn’t been killed and that he wasn’t sitting in the Supreme Court charged with murder.
Mr Barnett said the reduction in charge might carry a lower maximum penalty, but the fractured skull meant it was among the most serious examples of that offence.
“I have been asked to regard that the injuries amount to assault occasioning actual bodily harm and nothing more,” Mr Barnett said.
“And therefore as assault occasioning actual bodily harm, they have to be at the top of the scale.”
Ultimately, Clay’s barrister, Terrence Healey, was able to convince Mr Barnett that there were other alternatives to a full-time jail term.
“I consider this to be a very serious incident... and contend that the only appropriate penalty is one of imprisonment,” Mr Barnett said. “However, I am prepared to consider what options are available to me.”
He adjourned the matter until June to see if Clay is suitable to serve his sentence by way of an intensive corrections order (ICO), a custodial sentence served in the community, but said there was no guarantees.
I consider this to be a very serious incident... and contend that the only appropriate penalty is one of imprisonment. However, I am prepared to consider what options are available to me.- Magistrate Peter Barnett, SC.
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