The accused Bourke Street driver is fit to stand trial and is trying to use his mental illness to avoid jail, prosecutors have told a court.
- Under Victorian law, an accused person is presumed fit to stand trial unless they meet one of seven criteria
- Mr Gargasoulas’s lawyer says his client’s messianic delusions render him unable to face a criminal trial
- The prosecution says Mr Gargasoulas is not consumed by his delusions and is capable of thinking rationally
James Gargasoulas is facing a second Supreme Court hearing to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial on six counts of murder and 28 counts of attempted murder over the tragedy in January 2017.
The prosecution and defence agree Mr Gargasoulas has paranoid schizophrenia and suffers from delusions, but disagree on whether his illness renders him unfit to stand trial.
Prosecutor Kerri Judd SC told the hearing that Mr Gargasoulas is not consumed by his delusional beliefs and is able to think rationally.
She said Mr Gargasoulas wanted to be found unfit to face trial so he would be housed at Thomas Embling psychiatric hospital, rather than prison, and possibly be released at some point.
But defence barrister Theo Alexander told the jury Mr Gargasoulas’ messianic delusions about “being God, being the saviour, being Jesus” render him unable to face a criminal trial.
A jury of 12 people will hear evidence from three mental health experts who have assessed Mr Gargasoulas, including his treating psychiatrist, before considering whether he meets the criteria for fitness, on the balance of probabilities.
The hearing was told that two psychiatrists will give evidence Mr Gargasoulas is unfit to stand trial as he is unable to enter a plea, challenge potential jurors, understand the substantial effect of the evidence against him or instruct his lawyers.
Meanwhile, a psychologist called by the prosecution will give evidence that Mr Gargasoulas is fit to stand trial.
Under Victorian law, there is a presumption an accused person is fit to stand trial unless, due to mental impairment, they meet any of the following seven criteria:
- Unable to understand the nature of the charge
- Unable to enter a plea
- Unable to exercise their right to challenge jurors
- Unable to understand the nature of the trial
- Unable to follow the course of the trial
- Unable to give instructions to their legal practitioner
- Unable to understand the substantial effect of evidence given against them
Gargasoulas on sixth different drug
Psychiatrist Lester Walton was engaged by the defence and has assessed Mr Gargasoulas in prison on four occasions since September 2017.
Dr Walton gave evidence that Mr Gargasoulas’s illness has not improved over that period and was treatment resistant.
“He is now on his sixth different anti-psychotic medication and he is receiving a particular drug at the moment which is considered a drug of last resort … so he’s at the moment in the early stages of treatment of that particular drug,” he said.
Dr Walton said Mr Gargasoulas had acknowledged that he was responsible for the Bourke Street rampage but that God had made him do it.
“He can describe the burn out, that he was calling out to people … that God made him do it, that he was escaping police, that he had a vision beforehand that he was following, that there was a necessity to injure perhaps one or more people,” he said.
“He wants to be recognised as the King … he talks about Aboriginal royalty.
“There’s this amalgam of strange ideas which is his world view.”
Dr Walton said Mr Gargasoulas did not believe he had a mental illness but is compliant in taking medication.
“He is hoping that the medication is ineffective which will prove that he’s not mentally ill,” Dr Walton said.
The hearing continues.