Benjamin Batterham, now 36 years old, was at his home, in Hamilton, an inner city suburb of Newcastle, having drinks with a friend in the early hours of 26 March 2016 when he saw a man in his house, coming out of his baby daughter’s room. The man was holding what would later be found to be his wife’s baby bag.
Ben Batterham gave chase to Ricky Slater who removed belongings from his home
Mr Batterham and his friend chased the man from his house, briefly losing sight of him and calling the Police on 000 on a phone borrowed from a member of the public, before sighting the man again and continuing the chase.
Mr Batterham caught the man 330m from his home and restrained him on the ground, face down. The man Mr Batterham had seen, chased and caught was a Mr Richard Slater. Mr Slater was known to friends and family as Ricky. Mr Batterham held him down with his arm around his upper shoulder/neck area, whilst the man struggled. Mr Batterham’s yelling and the struggle between the men at 3.20am woke the neighbours.
Numerous eye witnesses gave evidence in the trial as to what they had witnessed. Evidence was given that Mr Batterham had been told to release Mr Slater and had complied, at which time Mr Slater bit Mr Batterham and he again restrained him.
Police took over from the citizen’s arrest
Police attended the scene at which point Mr Batterham released Mr Slater, and he was arrested for a break and enter of Mr Batterham’s premises and handcuffed by Police. The first responding Police both gave evidence that Mr Slater had been rolled onto his side and was breathing at this point. A few minutes later, it was noticed by Police that Mr Slater did not appear to be breathing, and cardio-pulmonary rescuscitation (CPR) was commenced.
Ambulance paramedics attended the scene and found Mr Slater to be in cardiac arrest.
Following CPR, a heart-beat was re-established and Mr Slater was conveyed to John Hunter Hospital. Mr Batterham was charged with recklessly occasioning grievous bodily harm. During the transport to Hospital and again at Hospital, Ricky Slater had two further cardiac arrests.
Ben Batterham is charged and tried with murder
On 27 March 2016, a CT scan found Mr Slater to be brain dead and his life support was turned off. Mr Batterham was charged with the murder of Richard Slater and taken into custody for 6 weeks, prior to his being released on bail from Cessnock Prison.
Mr Batterham was tried before a jury and His Honour Judge Fagan, in the Supreme Court at Newcastle. The issues to be decided was the cause of death of Mr Slater.
Significant medical factors led to Ricky Slater’s death
The Crown’s cardiology expert, Dr Kennedy, gave evidence that the substantial cause of death was Mr Slater’s level of methylamphetamine in the blood, his chronic use of methylamphetamine which had led to fibrosis of the heart, his obesity and the maximal exertion of exercise of running and a struggle on the ground.
The Defence for Mr Batterham argued that his lawful actions in effecting a citizen’s arrest of Mr Slater, by chasing him and detaining him until the Police arrived, did not substantially contribute to the death of Mr Slater. This was reflected in the evidence of 5 of the 6 medical experts.
Ben Batterham is found not guilty and discharged
On Wednesday, 20 November 2019, the jury returned unanimous verdicts of not guilty to the crimes of murder and manslaughter of the deceased, Mr Richard Slater. Mr Batterham was discharged.
Mr Batterham was represented by Mr Winston Terracini QC/SC and Mr Brian Murray of Counsel from Sir Owen Dixon Chambers, and Peter O’Brien and Tahn O’Rourke of O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors.