Justice Stephen Campbell has found that local residents Margaret and Ian Settree were murdered by their son in December 2014 however, at the time of the offence, the accused was deemed to have been suffering from a significant mental illness.
In the week long trial at Dubbo Supreme Court, which concluded last Wednesday, presiding judge Justice Campbell heard that police and other emergency services were called to the Bourke Street address around 8.30pm on Wednesday December 3, 2014 after reports of a shooting.
The bodies of a 69 year old woman and a 71 year old man were located at the address.
The couple’s son was arrested nearby a short time later and, pending investigations by specialist police, he was formally charged with causing their deaths.
He was also charged with possession of an unauthorised prohibited firearm.
In handing down his deliberation last week, Justice Campbell took into consideration a large volume of evidence and witness statements collected by detectives working on special Strikeforce Germaine.
He also heard expert evidence presented in person by two psychologists.
Justice Campbell returned a special verdict of not guilty due to mental illness and ordered that the 48 year old be detained indefinitely as a forensic patient within a correctional centre.
The man is to be managed by the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
Many of Margaret and Ian’s family members and friends attended the court hearing for the duration of the trial including their daughter, Wendy Robinson.
“The twists and turns in the justice system are certainly very interesting and it has been quite an education for me over the past 19 months, especially in the past three weeks,” Wendy told The Cobar Weekly.
According to the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) fact sheet for victims, a special verdict of not guilty by reason of mental illness can imply that the crime isn’t acknowledged or recognised. However there are very serious consequences for persons found not guilty by reason of mental illness, and it is important that victims understand what happens next.
Wendy said she was “satisfied” with the outcome of the trial.
“While my family and I are happy with the outcome that my brother will be in jail indefinitely, it still does not sit comfortably with us that that there is ‘no conviction recorded’.
“I know the not guilty verdict is probably going to be difficult for many people to accept.
“In the end this was the best outcome offered, as the conviction of murder or manslaughter got him a ticket out of jail too soon.
“There is a lot of lobbying going on to change the wording, which I intend on supporting.
“I ask the public to respect the family’s privacy with their comments and until they have been through what we have endured and witnessed in the court system people cannot possibly understand.
“The Crown, the DPP, detectives, and witness support have been an extraordinary team of people working around the clock for us.
“Detective Scott Holyday, especially has gone above and beyond for my family and justice for Mum and Dad.”
More information about the special verdict of not guilty by reason of mental illness can be accessed on the NSW Attorney General’s Department website victim services section and mental health review (www.mhrt.nsw.gov.au).
If you, or someone you know, needs help contact Lifeline at 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au.