Thursday, June 13, 2024

Court finds Shakira Adams is fit to face trial for manslaughter over car crash that killed Matthew McLuckie

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The way has been cleared for Canberra woman Shakira Adams to stand trial in the ACT Supreme Court over the death of 20-year-old Matthew McLuckie, who was killed in a catastrophic crash on Hindmarsh Drive in 2022.

Ms Adams is facing charges including manslaughter, culpable driving causing death, driving a stolen car, aggravated dangerous driving and driving without a licence.

Prosecutors have said she was travelling at 177 kilometres per hour in a stolen car and on the wrong side of the road when she hit Mr McLuckie’s vehicle head-on.

She was seriously injured in the crash and has since been diagnosed with a major neurocognitive disorder.

Ms Adams was committed for trial last year.

But her lawyers applied to have her deemed unfit to plead and stand trial for the charges, based on her mental decline since the crash.

Two psychiatrists gave evidence in court that they believed Ms Adams was not fit to enter a plea.

The threshold for being fit to plead includes whether a person’s mental processes are so disordered they cannot understand what they have done, or understand the process of the trial or follow the proceedings.

Another test is whether a person can give effective instructions in choosing jurors.

Loss of memory is not a criteria.

Accused not impaired by psychosis or dementia, judge finds

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum told the court she accepted the psychiatrists’ opinion, but was not persuaded that meant Ms Adams should not be tried on the charges.

“Psychiatrists are not experts in criminal proceedings,” Chief Justice McCallum said.

She noted that in one instance Ms Adams had been scored poorly on a test which included questions about the names of the current prime minister and the United States president who was assassinated in the 1960s.

Chief Justice McCallum said Ms Adams was not impaired by psychosis or dementia, and the facts were straightforward enough for her to follow.

The chief justice also said there was no evidence suggesting Ms Adams’ lawyers had had any difficulty communicating with her so far.

Another issue explored during the case was whether Ms Adams could stand trial if there was an intermediary to help her.

Ms Adams’ lawyers argued against the idea, but Chief Justice McCallum has found the law would permit that, if it was necessary.

Chief Justice McCallum said there was nothing to say Ms Adams shouldn’t stand trial.

“I cannot establish Ms Adams is unfit to plead,” she said.

“On everything before me … she is taken to be fit to plead.”

The case will return to court later in the month.

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