Jury discharged after judge directs terrorism acquittal

·2-min read
Margaret Scheikowski/AAP PHOTOS

A man armed with a fake bomb who fired shots at passing cars and barricaded himself in a dive shop was mentally ill, not a terrorist, a judge has directed a jury before discharging them from the trial.

Simon William Fleming was dressed in black combat fatigues, armed with a rifle and a gel blaster, pretending a silver briefcase was a bomb when he set off towards a main street on the outskirts of Wollongong on November 28, 2021.

A flurry of triple-zero calls reported confusion and fear as Fleming walked down the road dressed in a balaclava, firing his rifle at cars and in the air.

A judge has directed the NSW Supreme Court jury to find him not guilty of engaging in a terrorist act.

"The accused has a longstanding mental health impairment," Justice Helen Wilson said after the jury was discharged on Tuesday.

Fleming was also facing charges for using a firearm in a manner likely to endanger members of the public, detaining hostages, using a fake bomb to create a false sense of danger and unlawfully possessing gel blasters found at his home.

A special verdict was given for those remaining counts, which were proven to have taken place, but he is not criminally responsible for them.

"That conduct was the product of acute illness," the judge said.

The Crown alleged Fleming was engaged in an act of terrorism, motivated by a desire to intimidate the Australian public and the government.

However, following evidence at trial about his schizophrenia, it conceded he could not be proven guilty on the indictment he was charged on.

The judge ordered Fleming be detained at a forensic hospital in Sydney's south before returning to court on May 31.

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