$78k payout for imprisoned mentally ill man overturned

A MENTALLY ill man who spent more than a week in prison has had a $78,000 payout for wrongful imprisonment overturned on appeal.

Darren Maxwell Roberson faced Lismore Local Court in March 2009 on charges of assault, assault occasioning bodily harm and malicious damage to property.

He was diagnosed in Lismore with paranoid schizophrenia, with orders made for him to be remanded in custody at a mental health facility.

Roberson was transferred to Grafton Jail before being shifted to a remand centre at Silverwater Prison and ending up at the Long Bay Prison Hospital.

He had been held in remand for eight days before entering the Long Bay mental health facility, due at least partially to a bed shortage.

Roberson remained there for about four weeks and was returned to Lismore, where he was kept in custody for two days before being admitted to a mental health facility.

He was released from custody into community treatment the following day.

Roberson filed claims against the State of New South Wales, the Northern NSW Local Health District and Dr Harry Freeman, one of two medical officers who diagnosed his mental illness.

All three claims were upheld in June last year, and Roberson was awarded $78,000 in damages.

NSW Supreme Court Justice John Basten on Wednesday found on appeal "there was no basis for the finding that (Roberson) was unlawfully imprisoned at any time between March 5, 2009, following his arrest and charging with criminal offences, and his transfer to a mental health facility on May 14, 2009".

Justice Basten also overturned an earlier finding that Dr Freeman had misused his power as a public officeholder by failing to have Roberson admitted to the Lismore mental health facility.

Roberson's cross-appeal calling for further damages to be paid was dismissed.

The $78,000 payout was quashed and Roberson was ordered to pay the other parties' legal costs. -ARM NEWSDESK

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