17 September 2023

Convoy to Canberra's 'brainwashed' magician avoids returning to jail for breaking woman's wrists

| Albert McKnight

Cameron Robert McKay, 36, hid his face behind a piece of paper when the media tried to take his photo after he avoided being returned to jail on Thursday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A man who pushed a 67-year-old woman, breaking both of her wrists, after joining the Convoy to Canberra in order to entertain protesters with magic avoided being returned to jail when he was sentenced.

Cameron Robert McKay had first appeared in court to face his charges last year, including appearing in a chaotic exchange where a magistrate blasted him for being an “idiot”.

The convoy’s protesters had camped Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) in early 2022 and McKay had been invited there by an organiser to entertain them with magic tricks, the ACT Magistrates Court heard on Thursday (14 September).

On 10 February, an organiser asked him to go and collect a PA system that they had permission to use for a protest outside the High Court. But McKay mistakenly went to the wrong building at EPIC to get it.

Meanwhile, the 67-year-old had been working for her horse racing club when she heard a noise in their office and entered to find McKay trying to take their PA system.

She told him to get out and that he couldn’t take their PA. He said he needed one, but she suggested he was supposed to get it from another building.

She tried to usher him out of the office, including trying to push him out the door and grabbing his shirt, while McKay told her to stop touching him.

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Magistrate Ian Temby said he was closer to the door than the victim was when he became frustrated and pushed her in the chest, causing her to fall to the ground.

He thought he needed to defend himself, the magistrate said, but his response was not reasonable.

The victim broke one bone in one wrist and two bones in her other wrist. She needed surgery as well as the insertion of plates and screws into a wrist and still experienced pain 19 months after the assault.

Cameron Robert McKay after he was granted bail in 2022. Photo: Albert McKnight.

After McKay was arrested, he failed to appear in Canberra’s courts twice and had to be extradited from NSW two times.

Both times he failed to appear were preceded by him sending in an affidavit in which he “in essence rejected the court’s jurisdiction”, the prosecutor said.

McKay’s lawyer, Legal Aid’s Brandon Bodel, said around the time of his offences he had been part of an alternative group which had its own theories on what people’s obligations to the courts were.

“For lack of a better word, I’d say he was brainwashed somewhat by this group,” Mr Bodel said, adding his client was no longer a member.

When it came to the assault, the lawyer said “accidents happen”. He said it was committed due to stress, lack of sleep, confusion and via a single push.

He said McKay had gone to the wrong building to get a PA system when the victim confronted him, so “at the time, he thought he was doing the right thing”. His client pushed her in response to her touching him, he said.

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The court heard the 36-year-old felt “deep shame” for the assault and had apologised to his victim. He has schizophrenia, no longer takes cannabis and is now on medication.

“This person has come a very long way from the man that he was at the time the offence was committed,” Mr Bodel said.

The prosecutor accepted he had demonstrated he did have the ability to rehabilitate.

McKay pleaded guilty to one count of causing grievous bodily harm and two counts of failing to appear in court and spent 35 days in custody during the course of his case.

He was convicted and sentenced to three months’ jail, suspended for a two-year good behaviour order.

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