20 February 2024

Psychiatrists to be cross-examined to determine future of case against alleged killer Shakira Adams

| Albert McKnight
Shakira May Adams

Shakira May Adams (centre) attended court for a mention of the case against her on Tuesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Two psychiatrists who suggest that alleged killer Shakira May Adams should be found unfit to plead to her charges will be cross-examined on their findings, a court has heard.

On 19 May 2022, Ms Adams allegedly had drugs in her system when she drove a stolen Volkswagen on the wrong side of the road at almost 180 km/h before she crashed into the car of 20-year-old Matthew McLuckie. He died the next day.

A debate has been taking place about whether or not she is legally able to plead to her charges, which include manslaughter.

She has a traumatic brain injury and the ACT Supreme Court has previously heard that both the prosecution and defence had determined she was unfit to enter a plea.

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However, late last year, Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said it seemed the lawyers may have been “sailing” to an assumption that she would accept their position.

She was not persuaded by the material currently before the court that she could make a finding that Ms Adams was not fit to enter a plea on the balance of probabilities.

On Tuesday (20 February), the court heard the prosecution wanted to adjourn the matter as it proposed to cross-examine two psychiatrists later this year.

These psychiatrists suggested that she was unfit to plead and the prosecution wanted to test the veracity of those conclusions.

family photo

Matthew McLuckie (right) with his younger brother Joseph and father Tom. Photo: ACTnowforsaferroads.

The court heard the prosecution accepted Ms Adams did have the capacity to enter a plea, but the main issue appeared to be her understanding of the proceedings and her ability to instruct her lawyers.

The court heard statements from two social workers who also showed she had communication difficulties.

Chief Justice McCallum said the psychiatrists’ reports talked about her ability to concentrate and communicate during a trial, but she said this was an area that a court intermediary could assist with and she could appoint one for Ms Adams off her own initiative.

In general, a court intermediary assists a witness with understanding information and communication.

Chief Justice McCallum said she would allow the defence time to think about whether it objected to her making an intermediary order and, if not, she would make it in chambers next week.

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She adjourned until 1 May, with the aim of concluding the fitness to plead hearings that day.

“I want to be clear that on the 1st of May I will finish this hearing and I will make a decision promptly after that,” she said.

Ms Adams was charged with manslaughter, culpable driving causing death, aggravated reckless driving, unlicensed driving and driving a motor vehicle without consent.

Afterwards, a question was raised about whether or not she was fit to plead.

In June, the court heard a report on this issue was “somewhat equivocal”, and its author, Dr Anthony Barker, didn’t express a definitive view that she was not fit to do so.

Ms Adams, aged in her early 20s and from Bruce, has been an inpatient at the Canberra Hospital.

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