LOUISE HALL March 27, 2012
Abroad ... Matthew Newton. Photo: Face to Face Productions
Troubled actor Matthew Newton sought help to deal with the side-effects of his psychiatric medication in the days before he was allegedly involved in an incident with a taxi driver, his lawyer has told a court.
Newton has been charged with assaulting a taxi driver in Crows Nest in December last year.
His lawyer, Chris Murphy, told north Sydney Local Court his client was suffering from a range of mental illnesses in the days leading up to the incident.
He asked magistrate Ellen Skinner to deal with the matter under mental health legislation, rather than criminal legislation.
"I'm suggesting that we have a man who is involved in an incident with a taxi driver and at that particular time he was suffering a mental illness that qualifies him to be dealt with under section 32 [of the mental health (criminal procedure) Act]", Mr Murphy said.
"He takes a bomb load of medication every day."
"He had medication difficulties, he had lost his support system, he was the subject of an assault."
Mr Murphy said the Underbelly star was currently in St Louis living "a peaceful life" after psychiatrists recommended he leave Australia to get away from the "ferocious" media attention.
"He was born in the public eye. He needs just to have some normalcy," Mr Murphy said.
The court heard there was evidence that Mr Newton grabbed the taxi driver while he was driving and leaned forward into the drivers seat. The driver allegedly received a "light blow" to the head. Mr Newton and the driver then got out of the car and Mr Newton allegedly hit the driver.
Ms Skinner said Mr Newton faced "a very serious allegation" and she needed to know why the matter should be dealt with under mental health rather than criminal legislation.
"There is material in the prosecution brief that shows a serious assault against a person in a vulnerable position, being the taxi driver" she said.
She asked Mr Murphy if Mr Newton's medication made him more prone to outbursts or paranoid, "So I can determine if there is a treatment plan I can order so the risk of it happening again is reduced because that's what's in the community's interest."
The matter was adjourned to 2pm tomorrow.