Witnesses continued to alter police statements.
Witnesses continued to alter police statements.

Coroner condemns web accusations

THE Coroner presiding over the inquest into the death of Jai Morcom has lashed out at people making unfounded accusations about the case on social networking sites.

“We are doing our best to remain objective (while) a lot of things are flying around on MySpace and Facebook by people who have heard things. It’s not helpful and it’s not fair,” he said yesterday.

It was a day of high drama at Lismore Courthouse, the fourth of the coronial inquest into the death of the Mullumbimby High School student.

Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillonbegan proceedings by taking issue with a newspaper article quoting a potentially defamatory comment by Jai’s father, Steve Drummond, outside the court.

He accepted some responsibility for not raising the procedural issue earlier, but warned that people’s reputations were at stake and reiterated that any accusations must be put to the court to allow for a right of reply, and to allow him to rule on the matter.

“I know this is a highly controversial case in the community (but) there is no smoking-gun evidence concerning Jai,” he said.

“I urge people to stay calm.

“Let’s not have a trial by media or Facebook. It is a very distressing case for Steve Drummond and Kim Morcom and the kids at the school.”

Tensions escalated after morning tea when Mr Dillon questioned Mr Drummond from the bench asking him if he had said ‘you murdered my son’ to a witness outside the court.

A visibly bewildered Mr Drummond vehemently denied making any such statement and said later the only person he spoke to outside the court was a journalist, to whom he had said in a raised voice, ‘I don’t like how you’re portraying my son’, which he believes may have been misconstrued.

In other procedural issues, the coroner has allowed a competing medical report commissioned by Mr Drummond which is believed to indicate Jai’s brain haemorrhage was likely caused by trauma.

Counsel for the Education Department, and a student, objected on the grounds it wasn’t submitted by the deadline and, in their opinion, it didn’t ‘assist the medical evidence in any way’.

Mr Drummond explained that access to crucial slides needed by his expert was delayed beyond his control.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Michael Wigney SC, also made note of an unsigned affidavit received by email containing a ‘large amount of information’ and ‘serious allegations about some senior staff’ at Mullumbimby High School.

After careful consideration Mr Wigney said it would not be provided to the court as it contained ‘second and third-hand information’, as well as ‘anecdotal and general observations about Mullumbimby High’. He added that he was happy to receive and consider any information relevant to the case.

Meanwhile, it was a trying fourth day for the coroner as young witnesses continued to alter their original police statements. The inquest heard from another six students and former students, with one witness being held over until today.

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