A court has heard a correctional officer “believed he was doing what was necessary to prevent escape” when he discharged a firearm outside a hospital in northern NSW.
- A correctional officer is on trial for murder
- The man, known as Officer A, shot and killed Dwayne Johnstone as he attempted to escape custody
- Officer A’s defence says he believed firing his gun was necessary to prevent the inmate escaping
The man can not be named due to a court order and is referred to as Officer A.
He is on trial in the NSW Supreme Court for the alleged murder of 43-year-old Dwayne Johnstone outside Lismore Base Hospital on the evening of March 15, 2019.
Officer A discharged his firearm three times while Mr Johnstone attempted to escape custody.
The third shot hit Mr Johnstone in the back and led to his death.
Officer A has pleaded not guilty.
Shots fired ‘under pressure’
Defence barrister Philip Strickland told the court on Tuesday that correctional officers were trained that their “primary duty” was to prevent an inmate escaping, and firearms were a part of their training.
“He believed he was doing what was necessary to prevent escape,” he said.
“That was his job, to prevent escape, and his case is he had reasonable grounds for that belief.”
Mr Strickland said Officer A was forced to make difficult decisions quickly and under pressure, based on his limited knowledge of the area and Mr Johnstone.
“It’s not a case about whether he chose the best option. It’s a murder case, not a negligence case,” he said.
The jury was replayed 11 seconds of CCTV vision that showed the moments of the escape attempt and shooting.
“Now 11 seconds, members of the jury, is not very long,” Mr Strickland said, before pausing.
“That pause was 11 seconds. That’s the time in which this incident occurred.”
It came after a Crown prosecutor had previously told the court that Mr Johnstone was handcuffed and shackled at the ankles during his escape attempt and that, by firing his weapon, Officer A had intended to do serious harm.
Assault charges, escape risk
Mr Strickland told the court Mr Johnstone had been taken to the hospital from the cells at Lismore Courthouse after he had been refused bail over an assault charge.
He said Mr Johnstone had been accused of pressing a stun gun to the chest of an elderly man who used a pacemaker.
The court also heard evidence from a correctional officer who was shift supervisor at the cells at the time.
She told the jury Mr Johnstone was classified as an “escape risk” because he had “escaped before”.
She said Mr Johnstone needed to be treated as a maximum-security inmate during the hospital escort because he had not been convicted or sentenced.
The trial is expected to continue for about four weeks.
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https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-10-17/officer-a-trial-murder-dwayne-johnstone-lismore-shooting/102985812 Correctional officer had ‘reasonable grounds’ for Lismore inmate shooting, defence argues