11 June 2024

Woman accused of killing Matthew McLuckie in fatal crash found fit to plead

| Albert McKnight
woman entering a vehicle

Shakira May Adams, aged in her 20s, leaves court after the fitness to plead decision on Tuesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

The woman accused of killing a 20-year-old man in a fatal crash in 2022 has been found fit to plead to her charges, which was a question that had been investigated in court due to her brain injury.

Shakira May Adams allegedly had drugs in her system when she drove a car, believed to have been stolen, on the wrong side of the road at almost 180 km/h before crashing into the car of Matthew McLuckie on 19 May 2022. He died the next day.

A question was raised about whether or not she was legally able to plead to her charges, which include manslaughter, as she now has a severe traumatic brain injury.

After the question was investigated in the ACT Supreme Court this year, Chief Justice Lucy McCallum handed down her decision on Tuesday (11 June).

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She said psychiatrist Dr Anthony Barker had originally provided a report for the court, which was somewhat equivocal on the question. Prosecutors then sought a second opinion from Professor David Greenberg. He thought Ms Adams was unfit to plead or stand trial and unlikely to become fit within 12 months.

The psychiatrists both thought she had a major neurocognitive disorder.

Dr Baker said her significant and enduring cognitive impairment was likely to impact her ability to participate in court. He thought that if the court took steps such as taking breaks every 30 minutes, the matter might be able to proceed.

man tying bandana

Matthew McLuckie, pictured while on a family holiday. Photo: Supplied, Tom McLuckie.

Both prosecutors and defence lawyers also submitted that Ms Adams was not fit to plead, although the prosecution did so “reluctantly”.

When coming to a decision, Chief Justice McCallum said Ms Adams was presumed fit to plead unless the evidence established otherwise on the balance of probabilities.

She said there was clear evidence that her mental processes were impacted as a result of the crash, but the question was about the extent of her impairment.

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She also said the difficulty she had with the psychiatrists’ opinions was that they had applied a standard of analysis that was higher than legally permitted. The experts referred to Ms Adams’ diminished ability, but the statutory tests referred to an inability.

The chief justice ultimately said she was not persuaded it had been established that Ms Adams was unfit to plead and found her fit to do so based on the evidence.

The matter was adjourned to the registrar’s directions list on 26 June.

Ms Adams, who is aged in her 20s and from Bruce, was charged with manslaughter, culpable driving causing death, aggravated reckless driving, unlicensed driving and driving a motor vehicle without consent.

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