A Shellharbour bouncer who punched a drunk patron at the Ocean Beach Hotel, knocking out his two front teeth, has won an appeal against his conviction for reckless assault.
Minhindukulasuriya Fernando has always claimed he acted in defence of his fellow bouncers when he hit Blake Hunt once in the mouth on the evening of March 2 last year, after Hunt and one of his mates began to argue about getting kicked out of the hotel.
Two of Hunt's front teeth fell out as a result of the punch. He has since had to have extensive dental work done and still has limited feeling in his mouth.
Fernando pleaded not guilty to a charge of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm however was found guilty following a hearing in Wollongong Local Court earlier this year.
Not satisfied with the outcome, Fernando lodged an appeal against the magistrate's findings against him.
That appeal was upheld by Wollongong District Court judge Andrew Haesler on Friday, who found the magistrate had been wrong to find Fernando guilty.
Citing evidence presented to the local court, which included CCTV footage of the incident and witness accounts, Judge Haesler said he was satisfied Hunt and his friends had been behaving aggressively towards Fernando and his colleagues prior to the incident.
He noted that Fernando had witnessed Hunt push another bouncer moments before the punch, causing that man, who was more experienced and bigger than Fernando, to fall on his haunches against a wall.
"In those circumstances, it seems entirely appropriate that Mr Fernando believed he needed to do something," Judge Haesler said.
"Was the punch reasonable in all the circumstances, as Mr Fernando perceived them?
"It's clear to me given his size and training, all that was necessary would have been for Mr Fernando to put himself between Mr Hunt and his colleague....but I have to put myself in Mr Fernando's shoes at the time.
"He launched himself to put himself between Mr Hunt and his colleague...he made a split-second decision to raise his first and I don't think the court should be dissecting it any further.
"It was an immediate reaction to [seeing Hunt's] push and his colleague falling against the wall.
"I set aside the conviction."