The trial of Ihsas Khan, who is charged with a terrorism offence and attempted murder for stabbing his neighbour in Minto in 2016, has been aborted after questions were raised about his fitness to stand trial.
- Mr Khan was the subject of several mental health assessments and reports
- A doctor said he was experiencing a relapse of his “schizophrenic condition”
- A psychiatric report revealed Mr Khan had been hearing voices of the devil
Mr Khan was charged with committing a terrorist act with the intent to influence the Australian Government and attempted murder for stabbing Wayne Greenhalgh with a hunting knife on September 10, 2016.
Mr Khan does not dispute he stabbed Mr Greenhalgh but pleaded not guilty on the grounds of mental illness.
Over the past week, several incidents led the court to have Mr Khan’s mental health assessed repeatedly.
On May 10, court officers reported to the court he had been violent towards them and spat at one of them.
The court heard an assessment by a Justice Health doctor found Mr Khan was experiencing a “relapse of [his] schizophrenic condition” and he had stopped taking his medication five to six days earlier.
The psychiatric report said the accused was hearing voices of the devil, which was behind the spitting, and was experiencing “delusions of reference”, meaning he thought people were talking about him.
At that point, the psychiatrist’s opinion was that Mr Khan was “OK from the point of view of fitness to stand trial” in that he understood the proceedings, expressed a wish to proceed, and could give instructions to his lawyers.
But an affidavit was filed by Mr Khan’s solicitor detailing her observations of him.
“Which caused her to have concerns about the accused’s fitness to stand trial,” Justice Geoffrey Bellew said.
“Equally some of the matters to which [the solicitor] deposed would indicate … that the accused, despite his difficulties, remained able to at least understand the proceedings.”
On Monday, when the trial resumed another psychiatrist report was commissioned to assess the accused’s fitness to stand trial.
The psychiatrist, Jonathon Adams, was unable to say whether the accused was fit, but expressed “significant concerns” regarding his capacity to meet the minimum standards for fitness to stand trial.
“[Given] the likelihood of a further deterioration … the court would most likely find Mr Khan unfit to stand trial,” Dr Adams wrote.
On the back of that report, received yesterday, the trial was almost aborted.
But one more report was commissioned, this time on request of the Crown, by psychiatrist David Greenberg.
Corrections officers reported that yesterday morning the accused had spat at one of them and kicked another unprovoked, leading them to not remove him from his cell for the assessment.
Professor Greenberg could not definitively say if the accused was fit to stand trial.
Justice Geoffrey Bellew said while Mr Khan told Professor Greenberg that he did not understand his plea, or the course and nature of the proceedings, the psychiatrist treated those assertions with “a degree of scepticism.”
“In the end result, Professor Greenberg was of the opinion that further psychiatric assessment, care and treatment was required … to reach a firm conclusion about [Mr Khan’s] … fitness,” Justice Bellew said.
Justice Bellew said although no one had definitively found the accused to be unfit, the law required only the question of fitness to be raised.
“I couldn’t disclose these matters to you before because I was hoping to find a way to let the trial proceed,” Justice Bellew told the jury.
But yesterday’s events meant it wasn’t possible to continue, the judge said.
“The jury must be discharged and a separate hearing take place before a judge alone for the specific purpose of determining the accused’s fitness to stand trial,” he said.
Justice Bellew said more medical assessments should be carried out at least three to four weeks from now and scheduled for the case to be revisited in July.
“During which time the accused’s state should be closely monitored by Justice health and in particular his adherence to the medication regime,” Justice Bellew said.
“That will hopefully result in some greater stability of his mental state so as to facilitate further assessments being carried out.”
This is the second jury to hear the trial, after an earlier jury was discharged for unrelated reasons.