July 04, 2018 15:30:08
The accused Bourke Street driver will face another hearing later this year to determine whether he’s mentally fit to stand trial, as a judge pushes to get him admitted to the state’s secure psychiatric facility to fast-track his treatment for schizophrenia.
James Gargasoulas went before a jury last month to determine his mental fitness to stand trial on six counts of murder and 28 counts of attempted murder.
Mr Gargasoulas, who has since been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, is accused of running down pedestrians along the busy Melbourne shopping strip in January 2017.
The jury was discharged after it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on his current mental state.
Defence barrister Theo Alexander told a brief hearing in the Supreme Court that Mr Gargasoulas “could greatly benefit” from receiving treatment at the Thomas Embling psychiatric hospital.
“If in fact the treatment is effective then it would obviate the need for a fitness hearing, and if he’s not treated successfully it would dispense with the question of whether he would become fit,” he told the hearing.
But the court heard there are no beds available at the facility and it was unclear when Mr Gargasoulas could be admitted.
A lawyer representing Forensicare, which runs Thomas Embling, told the hearing it was investigating how it could accommodate Mr Gargasoulas on remand.
The court heard it would need up to four weeks from when a bed became available to assess how to suitably accommodate him, given the nature of his alleged crimes and his mental illness.
Justice Mark Weinberg said it would be in “everyone’s best interests” for Mr Gargasoulas to be treated at Thomas Embling to see if it makes a difference to his mental condition.
Prosecutor Kerri Judd SC agreed there was merit in Mr Gargasoulas receiving treatment there, but said she was anxious to have the second fitness hearing begin as soon as possible.
It has been set down for October 12, when a new jury will be empanelled.
The court heard Mr Gargasoulas’s fitness to stand trial would be re-assessed before that hearing.
Depending on the outcome of the fitness hearing, Mr Gargasoulas will then face a criminal trial or special hearing in November.
Justice Weinberg told the court he hoped the case would conclude by the end of the year.
How the court process works
July 04, 2018 12:26:36