Chef awarded costs over false murder claim
A Newcastle apprentice chef has been awarded costs related to his three-and-a-half-year fight to clear his name over the death of a drug-addled home invader.
Benjamin Batterham on Tuesday was awarded costs in the NSW Supreme Court after a judge criticised the director of public prosecution's decision to pursue a murder case against him.
Mr Batterham was in November acquitted over the March 2016 death of Ricky Slater who he found ransacking his daughter's bedroom at 3.15am.
He tackled Slater in the street, put him in a chokehold and repeatedly punched him in the head until police arrived.
Batterham told police: "Give me two minutes with him. I'll kill the dog."
However, a jury found him not guilty of murder and manslaughter after they accepted his argument he was acting to protect his home and family.
Mr Batterham's family was sleeping next door at his parents' house at the time of the incident.
Justice Desmond Fagan ruled that Mr Batterham be paid costs saying the charges should have been withdrawn on medical evidence.
The judge said the acted reasonably when he chased down Slater who was high on methamphetamine at the time.
Slater - who was found with three knives, cannabis and ice in his bag - died a day later after suffering three heart attacks.
He had scarring to his heart because of regular drug use, suffered liver disease and was obese, the court heard during the two-week trial.
The Crown had argued Mr Batterham "caused or substantially contributed to the death of Ricky Slater by application of pressure to his neck and downward pressure on his upper body".
But toxicologist and pharmacologist Dr Michael Kennedy gave evidence that Slater died due to the high level of methamphetamine in his system and his existing heart condition.
"If he hadn't been taking methamphetamine it's highly unlikely he would have died," Dr Kennedy said during the trial.
Justice Fagan determined the charge should have been withdrawn upon receipt of Dr Kennedy's report of March 2019.
Mr Batterham acted "lawfully and reasonably" in first calling police before chasing down and restraining Slater, the judge said.
"Having seen and heard the evidence of all the eyewitnesses it does not appear to me that the restraint applied by Mr Batterham was excessive, putting aside the blows he dealt to Ricky Slater while holding him down.
"Those blows may have gone beyond the force that was reasonably necessary to restrain Slater and to prevent escape.
"But it has been clearly shown by every medical opinion offered in the case that they played no part in causing death."