Joel McIlroy was due to face a hearing at Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
Joel McIlroy was due to face a hearing at Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett

Actor’s brain disease ‘going to get worse’

A former Home and Away star accused of bashing a female police officer had a "mistaken understanding" of the situation and wants the charges to be dealt with under the Mental Health Act due to his "very rare" degenerative brain disease, his lawyer has told a court.

Police allege Joel McIlroy put the 29-year-old NSW Police senior constable in a headlock and repeatedly punched her in the face in the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills on October 22, 2019.

He is charged with assaulting an officer in execution of duty causing actual bodily harm, wilfully obstructing an officer in execution of duty, resisting an officer in execution of duty and two counts of assaulting an officer in execution of duty.

Since 2007, the 47-year-old has suffered from Huntington's disease - a neurocognitive disorder which has previously claimed the life of his father.

Joel McIlroy starred in Home and Away with Kate Ritchie.
Joel McIlroy starred in Home and Away with Kate Ritchie.

ACTOR WANTS COURT CASE 'DIVERTED'

His lawyer, Elliot Rowe, told Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday there appeared to be a "mistaken understanding" from Mr McIlroy "as to the nature of the police and the role" of the undercover officers on that day last year.

"They were tending to two persons who appeared to be under arrest and Mr McIlroy has interjected into that scenario," he said.

He said it was not a premeditated assault and anticipated the case would come down to the "cognitive impairment" of Mr McIlroy "and his perception of what occurred and what was going on when he had this interaction with police".

Mr Rowe acknowledged "all offences against police are by their very nature serious" including the alleged "multiple strikes" at the hands of his client.

He said the alleged assault against the female officer was the "most serious" allegation.

He made a Section 32 mental health application to "divert" Mr McIlroy from the criminal justice system, at the start of what was anticipated to be a two-day hearing before Magistrate Jennifer Giles.

"It (Huntington's) is a very rare degenerative disease which is not one that which is common in terms of these applications," Mr Rowe said.

"This is the wake-up call that Mr McIlroy needed in terms of needing to understand his issue that he has and engage with treatment that has been devised for him."

He further described it as a "very, very problematic illness".

"It's seemingly only going to get worse for Mr McIlroy," he said.

Police prosecutor Senior Sergeant Amin Assaad opposed the Section 32 application.

He said the incident - including "placing the senior constable in a headlock and then striking her in the head" - was a matter of Mr McIlroy "not minding his own business".

Senior Sergeant Assaad said the 47-year-old had "stuck his nose in where it doesn't belong".

"Mr McIlroy kept yelling: 'This is police brutality'," he said, noting the former actor also claimed he was being "choked".

"Mr McIlroy knew full well that it was police that had control of him and were dealing with him."

He added: "At some stage, Mc McIlroy needs to be held accountable for his actions and members of the community need to be protected."

"I do concede he does have a condition, it has degenerated over the years."

Joel McIlroy in 2004. Picture: Simon Dean
Joel McIlroy in 2004. Picture: Simon Dean

MAGISTRATE FRUSTRATED BY DELAYS

The court has previously heard the case was delayed due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

A furious Ms Giles on Tuesday said the application, made without notice, was a "squanderous" use of court resources and an inconvenience to witnesses as nothing on the court file indicated it would be made.

"It's just a ridiculous waste of time," the magistrate said.

"I'm sorry, I don't think you quite understand how many tens of thousands of cases are waiting to get on and you just squander your special fixture.

"I have to make a decision, that doesn't just come out of thin air. I'd like to actually think about it.

"So yes, you'll have lost your two days."

Ms Giles paraphrased an email from Mr McIlroy's treating psychiatrist, stating that "to the detriment of his own case, he couldn't or shouldn't give evidence" at any potential hearing.

"It is a medical opinion that expresses some concerns that relate to his particular disease," Mr Rowe said.

"He's the only person able to give evidence to his subjective views … he is in quite the quandary in that respect."

Magistrate Jennifer Giles reserved her decision until Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
Magistrate Jennifer Giles reserved her decision until Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett

The court heard Mr McIlroy was arrested at the scene last year and spent 103 days behind bars before being granted bail in the NSW Supreme Court in February.

He had been living in Surry Hills beforehand but now resides with his family in Newcastle.

Mr McIlroy starred on Home and Away as Flynn Saunders from 2003 to 2006 but first appeared on the show back in 1994.

His role, as the husband of Sally Fletcher - Kate Ritchie's beloved character - earned him a silver Logie nomination for Most Popular Actor in 2006.

The magistrate reserved her decision on the Section 32 application until Wednesday morning.

Outside court with his mother on Tuesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
Outside court with his mother on Tuesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
He played Flynn on Home and Away.
He played Flynn on Home and Away.


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