ON PROBATION: John Henry James outside Ipswich Magistrates Court yesterday.
ON PROBATION: John Henry James outside Ipswich Magistrates Court yesterday. Ross Irby

Student's mental health blamed for attacks on strangers

RESIDENTS ran in fear when, in a fit of anger, a driver chased them down after ramming into a utility.

When the fleeing people ran in different directions, the driver deliberately changed his course and swerved in pursuit of one of them.

John James was later arrested, telling police he deliberately tried to hit them.

Ipswich Magistrates Court heard that soon after being released on bail, James returned to the same Ipswich street and used his car to chase different people.

John Henry James, 25, from Karalee, pleaded guilty in Ipswich Magistrates Court to two counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle in Diamantina Circle at Karalee on January 15 and January 17; failing to stop; six counts of causing wilful damage, and two counts of threatening violence.

In the first incident he struck a Toyota Hilux, and in the second incident he collided with a parked Nissan Pulsar after its occupants fled when he jumped up and down on its bonnet.

Police prosecutor Bronson Ballard said James pursued two people on January 15 and "admitted to police he attempted to hit them".

"The two separated and he pursued one individual, changing direction multiple times," Mr Bronson said.

After he was granted bail, James drove back to Diamantina Circle. He then attacked the car of a different group of people but left when the residents gathered around it.

James returned minutes later in his blue sedan and drove toward the people who fled to avoid being hit.

Mr Ballard sought an 18-month jail term. He said if one of the fleeing people had tripped or fallen James might have faced substantially different charges.

"These people were unknown to him. Completely random attacks on people he wrongly suspected of killing his dog," he said.

Police sought $2107 compensation for damage to the vehicles.

Defence lawyer Nathan Hounsell introduced medical evidence about the diagnosed mental health issues for which James was being treated, putting the offences in context of his illness.

Mr Hounsell said James was admitted to hospital following the events. He sought probation, saying the university student was now living in Toowoomba and receiving ongoing treatment.

Magistrate David Shepherd queried his treatment and his ongoing supervision.

Mr Shepherd said James had been acting under psychotic delusions at the time, even believing he'd been injected with blood and was on a damaging rampage.

"He suffered impaired decision making capacity," Mr Shepherd said.

"There is no doubt the potential for disaster in this offending was real. People avoided injury only by their own efforts of evasion."

Mr Shepherd said James would not have been released from hospital if deemed unsafe to do so.

Mr Shepherd said it was the ongoing management of James' mental health issues that would provide the relevant protection of the community.

He ordered James to serve probation of 30 months - the supervision an ongoing reminder that he must maintain his compliance/obligation to medication.

His non-compliance will be a breach.

James was disqualified from driving for two years, and fined $6500 for failing to stop with another two-year disqualification and was ordered to pay restitution.