James Paul Alderton
James Paul Alderton

Last minute report delays sentencing over stabbing death

A LAST-MINUTE medical report questioning the mental health of a Murwillumbah man who pleaded guilty to a 2017 manslaughter has forced delays in his sentencing.

James Paul Alderton, 24, was set to be sentenced in Lismore District Court on Tuesday for manslaughter, causing grievous bodily harm and wounding with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Alderton pleaded guilty in January this year for crimes he committed during a brawl in Knox Park, Murwillumbah on June 6, 2017 that left one man dead and another two critically injured.

Following an altercation, Alderton stabbed Charles Larter multiple times, and struck and stabbed Charles' son Zackary Larter and Joshua Mead.

However, a last-minute medical report questioning the potential impact his mental health could have played at the time of the 2017 incident was submitted to the court late Thursday afternoon ahead of the public holiday weekend.

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

But Judge Jeffrey McLennan made it clear on Tuesday he was appalled the report was delivered "on the eve of sentencing" and raised something that's never been a concern in the three years since the event.

"A year ago (the same doctor) gave a report on fitness and was not asked about what role (Alderton's) illness played," Mr McLennan said.

"I find getting a report of this complexity raising these issues …. is absolutely appalling."

The Crown Prosecutor told the court he was not disputing Alderton has a serious psychiatric condition, but argues he was "not actively psychotic" when he attacked the three men and "was not responding to commands or directions".

However, Alderton's defence barrister, Jason Watts, told the court the concerns over mental health playing a role in the case had previously been raised and had "caused significant delay" in the lower court.

"That is just the fact of the system and the pace it does and not the fault of any of the parties," he said.

Mr Watts also raised concern the judge was being asked by the crown prosecution to "make factual findings of the actions of the victim" on just the written submissions.

Mr McLennan adjourned the matter to May 7 to allow both the crown prosecution and Alderton's defence to clarify issues raised in court over the mental health report.

Both sides will also be given the chance on May 7 to view the available footage of the attack in Lismore District Court.



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