Dwayne Johnstone, who was shot dead by prison officers at Lismore Base Hospital. Picture: Tim Hunter.
Dwayne Johnstone, who was shot dead by prison officers at Lismore Base Hospital. Picture: Tim Hunter.

Legal issue could stop inquest into death of man in custody

UPDATE 2.30PM: A CORONIAL inquest into the death of an aboriginal man in custody in Lismore has been adjourned to allow time to decide whether criminal charges should be laid.

Numulgi man Dwayne Johnstone, 43, was under Corrective Services custody on March 15 last year when he was transported to Lismore Base Hospital for treatment.

Mr Johnstone, who suffers from epilepsy, had just been refused bail at Lismore Local Court when he suffered what is believed to be a seizure.

After his treatment, he was being escorted by two correctional service officers back to the transport van when he assaulted one the officers and attempted to run away.

Two warning shots were fired before one officer shot Mr Johnstone in his back outside the hospital's emergency department.

Police Rescue and SES crews are combing the area outside the Lismore Base Hospital for evidence following a fatal shooting on Friday night.
Police Rescue and SES crews are combing the area outside the Lismore Base Hospital for evidence following a fatal shooting on Friday night. Aisling Brennan

Mr Johnstone received immediate treatment by paramedics but died about two hours later.

Counsel Assisting Dr Peggy Dwyer told the inquest at Lismore Courthouse the coroner, Magistrate Teresa O'Sullivan, has the legal right to direct proceedings however if she feels any of the evidence given could cross the threshold of what could be deemed as an indictable offence, the inquest must be suspended.

Dr Dwyer said if Magistrate O'Sullivan finds any evidence heard during the inquest is sufficient enough for a jury to convict beyond a reasonable doubt, the entire inquest must stop, and any potential issue be brought to the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

It is then up to the DPP whether they proceed with laying any criminal charges.

"Your honour's role is limited to whether the evidence is capable of indictable offence," Dr Dwyer said.

Magistrate O'Sullivan adjourned the inquest to 10am on Wednesday, October 28 to allow for any of the legal parties to form their submissions as to whether or not she should suspend proceedings. 

ORIGINAL: A CORRECTIONAL Services Officer who shot an inmate outside of Lismore Base Hospital ordered the man to stop before firing the fatal bullet, a NSW Coroner's Court heard.

Numulgi man Dwayne Johnstone, 43, was under Corrective Services custody on March 15 last year when he was transported to Lismore Base Hospital for treatment.

Mr Johnstone while at the hospital assaulted one of two officers and attempted to run away as he was being led from the hospital following treatment at about 7.30pm.

He had earlier in the day been refused bail for an assault charge, where he allegedly tasered another man.

Mr Johnstone was on bail at the time of the offence, and Lismore Local Court heard he could not show cause for his release.

While in the cells at Lismore Court House, Mr Johnstone, who suffered from epilepsy, exhibited signs of a seizure.

 

An investigation is was conducted following a fatal shooting outside Lismore Base Hospital in March 2019.
An investigation is was conducted following a fatal shooting outside Lismore Base Hospital in March 2019.

 

He was assessed and transported to Lismore Base Hospital for further treatment.

The inquest heard Mr Johnstone, while being transported back to the correctional services van, shouldered the officer who was escorting him forcing the officer to lose balance and his grip of the inmate.

Mr Johnstone was then seen running in a south westerly direction across Uralba St, Lismore.

One of the officer's fired two warning shots before Mr Johnstone was shot in his back outside the hospital's emergency department.

Mr Johnstone received immediate treatment by paramedics, where the bullet was successfully removed but died about two hours later.

Throughout his time in custody and at the hospital, Mr Johnstone was handcuffed and ankle cuffed the entire time, including while he tried to escape.

The court heard Mr Johstone had a history of trying to escape custody, having once attempted in NSW and again on a separate occasion in Victoria.

While his transfer papers indicated this risk, the court heard the two correctional officers were not entirely aware of Mr Johnstone's history.

The court heard one officer had told police if he had known about the escape risk, he would have had a belt restraint on Mr Johnstone.

Counsel Assisting Dr Peggy Dwyer told the inquest the officer who fatally shot Mr Johnstone was the only officer armed of the pair.

 

Police combed the area outside the Lismore Base Hospital for evidence following a fatal shooting.
Police combed the area outside the Lismore Base Hospital for evidence following a fatal shooting.

 

Dr Dwyer said the officer He had verbally told Mr Johnstone to stop, drew his revolver and yelled "stop, stop or I'll shoot".

" (Mr Johnstone) kept running so he fired a warning shot into the bushes, he yelled to (the other officer) to get out the way," Dr Dwyer said.

"His first shot was a warning shot left of Dwayne … the second shot was fired in Dwayne's direction but not at him.

"His intention was to get Dwayne to stop, he was aiming at centre of (back) and his intention was to stop Dwayne because he thought he was escaping."

Mr Johnstone fell to the ground, the court heard after he was shot and the two officers called for medical assistance immediately.

The inquest is expected to hear from several witness over the course of four days, including medical staff who witnessed the incident.

The inquest will continue in Lismore Coroner's Court.


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