James Paul Alderton is being sentenced for manslaughter.
James Paul Alderton is being sentenced for manslaughter.

Killer was 'scared', psychiatrist tells court

THE mental health of a Murwillumbah man who pleaded guilty to a 2017 manslaughter has come into question at his sentencing.

James Paul Alderton, 25, appeared before the Lismore District Court on Wednesday via video link to be sentenced for manslaughter, causing grievous bodily harm and wounding with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Alderton pleaded guilty in January this year for fatally stabbing Charles Larter, and critically injuring Charles' son Zackary Larter and Joshua Mead during an altercation near Knox Park, Murwillumbah on June 6, 2017.

The stabbings occurred after a brawl in Knox Park involving Alderton and a group of teenagers.

Alderton was set to be sentenced last month but a last-minute medical report questioning the potential impact his mental health could have played at the time of the 2017 incident delayed court proceedings.

 

James Paul Alderton is being sentenced for manslaughter.
James Paul Alderton is being sentenced for manslaughter.

 

During his time in custody, Alderton has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The court on Wednesday heard from two psychiatrists who had assessed Alderton at least twice since his 2017 arrest.

Dr Olav Nielssen told the court in his expert opinion, Alderton had a "severe psychiatric illness manifesting in reckless behaviour", and an ongoing substance abuse.

While Dr Nielssen said Alderton had displayed "violent" tendencies he did not seem to be relying on hallucinations or voices when he attacked the three men in 2017.

"He has a perception of antagonism, a heightened level of threat but no (voices)," Dr Nielssen said.

"He was scared and thought they were going to bash him, that's what he told me."

Dr Nielssen said he did believe Alderton had "some potential for treatment" of his mental illness.

However, Dr Kerri Eagle, a consultant forensic psychiatrist who also assessed Alderton's mental health, disagreed with Dr Nielssen's professional opinion his schizophrenia was the sole factor in his behaviour on June 6, 2017.

"(Alderton) also had the effects of pervasive substance abuse over a lifetime, it could cause disturbances in his behaviour," Dr Eagle said.

"I don't think we're in strong disagreement about Mr Alderton's behaviours and function and traits, but the emphasis though is the contribution of his mental illness differs.

"This is complex, not all of these behaviours will purely flow from his mental illness."

The sentencing will resume on June 16, after Alderton's defence barrister, Jason Watts, requested an adjournment to view medical reports filed with the NSW Justice Department.


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