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Assault charges against former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro dismissed due to mental health

Henri Scott

July 9, 2023

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Original Source: ABC News, Jamie McKinnell 

Charges against former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro over the alleged assault of a camera operator have been dismissed under mental health legislation, after a court heard he is “significantly suffering”.

Mr Barilaro, 51, denied charges of common assault and destroying or damaging property over the incident at Manly in July last year.

Footage played on Friday in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court showed Mr Barilaro and a freelance camera operator pushing and grabbing at each other before the former politician walks away.

At the time, Mr Barilaro was facing mounting scrutiny over his appointment to a lucrative trade commissioner role in New York.

The Crown did not formally oppose Mr Barilaro’s application to have the matter dealt with under mental health legislation.

Defence lawyer Danny Eid told the magistrate the alleged incident was “at the absolute lowest end” of offending behaviour — and this was conceded by the prosecution

He said Mr Barilaro experienced a “significant mental health impairment over a sustained period” and had a number of “stressors” in his life at the time.

Mr Eid said his client was subjected to “filth” and “absolute grubby practices” from sections of the media because of how he was described, likening his treatment to harassment.

“This has to stop … the last thing we would want in a society is there to be a funeral where all the goodies come out and say ‘if only I’d known’,” Mr Eid said.

“This is a man who is significantly suffering.”

The freelance cameraman at the centre of the case, Matt Costello, is now planning to file a civil suit against Mr Barilaro.

The law firm representing him, Xenophon Davis, said the alleged assault left Mr Costello with a back injury and $14,000 worth of damage to his equipment.

Mr Costello has declined to comment on the action.

Mr Barilaro sat quietly in the public gallery during the hearing, mostly staring at the floor.

According to reports tendered to the court, Mr Barilaro experienced a recurrent depressive disorder and an anxiety disorder, and would have been “vulnerable to reacting impulsively”.

The Crown prosecutor said he was “a little concerned” some of the stressors were self-reported, but accepted that was “tempered” by the fact they pre-dated the incident.

“The prosecution also notes that many of the stressors identified in the material are matters of public knowledge and matters not easily fabricated,” the Crown prosecutor said.

The Crown cited Mr Barilaro’s defamation case and the trade commissioner appointment “and fallout” among those stressors.

The conduct was described as “an aberration” by the prosecutor, who said it was “perhaps the result of the continued unwanted attention to him that night after he’d indicated he didn’t want to answer questions”.

Magistrate Susan Horan granted Mr Barilaro’s application, which means the charges are dismissed subject to him being placed into the care of a medical professional and taking part in a treatment plan.

“Having considered the material … I reach the conclusion this is a strong application,” she said, describing the circumstances as somewhat unique.

“The material before me is compelling.”

The magistrate’s orders will be in place for 12 months.

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Written By Henri Scott

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