Jake Fairest, one of three deaf people accused of murdering a profoundly deaf man who fell 12 metres from an apartment balcony, has been accused of attacking a terrified family on a train when out on bail.
Supreme Court judge Mark Weinberg said on Wednesday that Mr Fairest, 27, who suffered from stunted growth and a weakened spine, had been charged with assault and recklessly causing injury over the alleged altercation on March 25.
Justice Weinberg said various members of the family claimed to have been assaulted by Mr Fairest about 3.45pm that day during what was described as a “push and shove” incident.
One woman claimed she was grabbed around the neck and dragged from the train by Mr Fairest.
The family alleged Mr Fairest lunged at and threatened them, causing distress to four young children who were frightened and screaming.
In dismissing an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions, John Champion, SC, to have Mr Fairest’s bail on the murder charge revoked because of the train incident, Justice Weinberg said the alleged assaults were not serious enough to warrant sending Mr Fairest back to prison given his personal circumstances.
Mr Fairest had been on bail since July 27 last year over the murder charge but is currently in custody over the assault charges. He is expected to apply for bail on the assault charges in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in the coming days.
The court was told Mr Fairest, who has severe cognitive and developmental disabilities following chemotherapy for a brain tumour when he was seven, is basically being held in isolation in prison because he cannot communicate with prison officers or other inmates. His iPad had been taken from him and he was given coloured pencils and paper to occupy him in his cell.
Mr Fairest has an IQ of 60 and this, coupled with his profound deafness, makes communicating with him verbally or when using Auslan sign language extremely difficult. He has never had a job and always lived with his father.
Mr Fairest and his co-accused, Warwick Toohey and Georgia Fields, were arrested in February last year and charged with murdering Robbie Wright, who fell from a balcony outside his Ringwood apartment on January 15. Mr Wright, 36, who also suffered from cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and had an intellectual disability, died in hospital three days later.
The trio allegedly confronted Mr Wright in his lounge room, restrained him and forced him onto the balcony and over the hand rail.
Mr Fairest spent five months in prison after his arrest in February 2015 and had to be placed in protection after being bullied by other prisoners before being granted bail by Justice Weinberg.
Psychological reports revealed he was unfit to stand trial for murder due to mental impairment and would not be capable of understanding or following the case. A special hearing before a jury to formally confirm he is unfit to stand trial will be held on May 13.
Separate fitness-to-plead hearings will be held for Ms Fields on May 16 and Mr Toohey two days later.
Previous court hearings have been told CCTV footage of the trio using Auslan sign language on a train to Ringwood, in the foyer of Mr Wright’s apartment and in the lift on the way to confront him, formed part of the Crown case against them because the recordings suggested they had allegedly been planning the murder.
In a separate development, Justice Weinberg rejected an application from the DPP to also have Ms Fields’ bail revoked after she was found to have breached many of her bail conditions.
Justice Weinberg said Ms Fields had contacted a key prosecution witness, met with Mr Fairest in the city and travelled to Queensland for a four-day trip.
The judge said he did not want to send Ms Fields back to jail and had decided instead to impose stricter bail conditions, including not permitting her to leave the family home unless accompanied by her father or mother and that she hand over her iPhone and computer to police.
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