The son of a Sydney millionaire who allegedly held up a petrol station with an air rifle has an extensive history of mental illness and substance abuse, a court heard on Tuesday.
Riley Higgins was released on bail by the Supreme Court while he awaits trial over the August 17 incident which occurred on Sydney’s northern beaches.
The 24-year old, who is the son of millionaire Peter Higgins and wife Rebecca, was arrested later on the same day and charged with robbery armed with a dangerous weapon.
Mr Higgins will undergo a three-month treatment program at the Dooralong Transformation Centre, north of Sydney.
He was told by Justice Stephen Campbell that if he breaches bail conditions, including leaving the centre of his own accord, he will most likely be returned to custody.
Mr Higgins’ mother, Rebecca, who is a registered clinical counsellor and psychotherapist, told the court her son had undergone mental health treatment from a young age.
She said as a teenager he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, a mood disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.
Ms Higgins told the court at the time of the offence she had grown unsatisfied with his course of treatment and was in the process of seeking a “second opinion” to alter his treatment.
“In my professional opinion, I don’t think Riley was getting the best care that he could have been getting,” Ms Higgins said.
“We were pushing for better care for our son.”
Ms Higgins told the court her son was on an “extensive” regime of medications, including antipsychotics, which he for the most part adhered to, to her knowledge.
The court also heard from Mr Higgins’ lawyer, James Smith, who said his client’s use of illicit drugs – primarily cannabis – was a significant factor in his treatment.
“His mental health is inexorably linked to him overcoming his drug and alcohol issues,” Mr Smith said.
“The burden of this [bail] application is the complete absence of the necessary treatment whilst he’s in a mainstream custodial centre.
“There is simply no drug and alcohol treatment available … it is ‘turn up and take your drugs’. That’s why we say … the medium to long term community interest is in putting him in rehabilitation.”
Mr Smith told the court as far as the “physical act” of the crime was concerned, there was a strong prosecution case.
However, he added a mental illness defence would most likely be available to Mr Higgins, making it an “altogether different thing as to whether he is to be found guilty”.
Justice Campbell noted cases of illicit drug-induced psychosis do not necessarily absolve responsibility on the grounds of mental illness.
“The court so often sees cases like this where, really, as part and parcel of a mentally ill person’s presentation, there is also this aspect of the misuse of illicit drugs,” he said.
“That factor … gives rise to its own issues as illicit drug-related psychosis is not a matter which is likely to make good a plea of the mental illness defence for a variety of reasons.”