A former cricket star has avoided jail after admitting to assault and intimidation in a bid to have his charges dismissed on mental health grounds.
Michael Johnathan Slater, 52, beamed into Manly Local Court on Wednesday morning to plead guilty to three charges of common assault, intimidation, attempted stalking, using a carriage service with intent to threaten a woman, and contravening a restraining order.
The former Test opening batsman had begun drinking vodka early on the morning of April 26 when he started to accuse his ex-partner of infidelity and demanded to see her phone.
The court heard he grabbed for the phone and grabbed at his ex, who lost her balance and injured her hip. Mr Slater threatened self-harm several times throughout the day.
The incident was reported to the police by a member of the public who was concerned about Slater’s behaviour.
A couple of months later, Mr Slater was involved in a physical fight with another patient at the Northern Beaches Hospital while he was there for mental health treatment. He was also charged with intimidating the man during the altercation.
The court heard Slater, over the months of April to September, breached an apprehended violence order in place to protect an ex-girlfriend living in Freshwater.
The court heard he contacted the woman with more than 100 messages, emails and calls when he had been directed not to communicate with her. The woman reported he had “slurred speech” during the calls, the court was told.
Slater’s lawyer, John Agius SC, told the court the recent break-up had sent Mr Slater “down a deep dark tunnel”.
The ex-cricket commentator for Channel 7 was arrested on September 22 after the woman made several triple-0 calls.
Slater appeared in court from the beachside rehabilitation facility in Sydney’s Bronte wearing a light blue suit and a crisp white shirt.
Mr Agius applied for the seven charges to be dismissed on mental health grounds after telling the court his client was being treated for bipolar disorder, alcohol use disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
The court heard the former cricketer previously had domestic violence charges dismissed on similar grounds.
Mr Agius told the court Mr Slater had recently been diagnosed with likely bipolar disorder by a psychologist, which was supported by reports from two treating doctors.
He said the ex-cricket star was living with a “significant mental impairment” when he allegedly committed the offences before the court.
“That’s significant because if he has bipolar disorder and he’s not being treated for it, then … it’s likely that any treatment he has had hasn’t treated the whole of his condition,” his lawyer argued.
He said Slater’s offences were a result of his bipolar disorder and “not the result of intoxication”.
Mr Agius argued the charges should be dismissed because of his client’s diagnosis and his self-driven participation in several residential rehabilitation programs since the beginning of his alleged offences.
“He should be given one more chance. He should be given that chance because his likely bipolar disorder had not been diagnosed at the time,” Mr Agius told the court.
“He clearly wasn’t in control of his behaviour.”
The court heard Slater had been consistently treated for childhood trauma since he was 13 years old.
“He used sport to overcome that trauma,” Magistrate Robyn Denes said.
“He has also used and abused alcohol from a young age.”
During his career as a cricketer, Slater played 74 Test matches and 42 one-day internationals for Australia between 1993 and 2001.
He scored 5312 Test runs for Australia before he transitioned to television commentary for Nine and Seven.
Slater lost his career when he was “sacked as a commentator” and was ostensibly exiled from the cricket community, Mr Agius said.
“He missed the funerals of dear friends whom he had played with and with whom he was a dear friend because of his ostracising by others,” he explained.
The court was told the former Australian cricketer wanted to continue his efforts at rehabilitation after spending more than 125 days in rehab facilities since the initial offence.
Police prosecutor Craig Pullen argued the charges were too serious to be dealt with under mental health legislation.
“It is too frequent that the courts are seeing these applications,” he said.
“He was given that opportunity.”
Ms Denes dismissed the two assault charges and one intimidation charge related to the violent fight at the hospital on mental health grounds.
However, she convicted Slater for the domestic violence charges after finding he had shown “no self reflection as to the offending conduct” or the harm inflicted on the victims.
“There are some alarming aspects to that offending conduct … it is all controlling behaviour,” the magistrate said.
“Threats of self harm in the conduct of a relationship are viewed as controlling and manipulative conduct, making the other person responsible.”
Despite the defence’s argument that Slater’s bipolar disorder was the driving force behind his offending, Ms Denes said alcohol played a leading role.
“It’s Mr Slater’s consumption of alcohol that is the problem here,” she determined.
Although she acknowledged his mental health struggles, the magistrate noted the seriousness of domestic violence charges and said it was “not always appropriate to deter” offenders on mental health grounds.
She said a conviction was “warranted and would be expected by the community” for the charges of assault, intimidation, using a carriage service to harass, and contravention of the restraining order.
Slater was sentenced to a two-year community corrections order and a second good behaviour bond for two years.