Billy Clay pleads guilty to 'one punch' assault of former pro surfer Jake Sylvester

GUILTY: Former professional surfer Jake Sylvester suffered a fractured skull in a 'one punch' attack outside a Newcastle West hotel last year. Inset: Billy Patrick Clay pleaded guilty on Wednesday.
GUILTY: Former professional surfer Jake Sylvester suffered a fractured skull in a 'one punch' attack outside a Newcastle West hotel last year. Inset: Billy Patrick Clay pleaded guilty on Wednesday.

A MAYFIELD man has pleaded guilty to the ‘one punch’ assault of former professional surfer Jake Sylvester during a night out in Newcastle West during Surfest last year.

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. 

Clay had pleaded not guilty to reckless grievous bodily harm and was due to face a hearing in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday when he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. 

Clay, who was represented by solicitor Cameron Duncan, will be sentenced in April and faces the maximum of five years in jail. 

Mr Sylvester and Clay were both with separate groups of friends at The Family Hotel in Hunter Street on the night of February 24, according to a statement of police facts.

But between 11pm and 11.30pm, the hotel’s operations manager noticed Mr Sylvester on the dance floor smoking and thought he looked intoxicated.

Mr Sylvester was kicked out the front door of the hotel and became involved in an argument with security, police facts state.

Around the same time Clay and his friends left the hotel and the group became involved in a “scuffle” with Mr Sylvester.

The group of about six “swarmed” around Mr Sylvester and there was pushing and shoving and Mr Sylvester was pulled onto the road.

The group scattered except for one man holding onto Mr Sylvester’s shirt.

Clay can be seen on CCTV footage walking away from the group and watching the pair before, “without provocation or warning” he rushes towards Mr Sylvester and punches him once in the face, police facts state.

The punch knocked Mr Sylvester unconscious and he fell back and struck his head on the roadway.

The group of men walked away and witnesses came to Mr Sylvester's side and began first aid while waiting for an ambulance. 

Mr Sylvester, who was bleeding from a wound to the back of his head and had bruising around his right eye, was taken to John Hunter Hospital, where it was determined that he had suffered a fractured skull, a subdural haemorrhage to his brain, a cerebral contusion and a laceration to the back of his head. 

He has since made a recovery. 

Clay handed himself into police two days after the attack after reading about the severity of Mr Sylvester’s injuries on social media.