The female officers showed their identification and directed Mr McIlroy to move on, which he did after initially insisting on his “rights to know as a citizen”.
As he walked away, he barged his shoulder into one of the constables who was about 30 centimetres shorter than him and just over half his weight.
“She stumbles backwards,” Ms Giles said. “She then reaches out to try to grab him, to arrest him for assaulting her.”
Mr McIlroy then lashed out, punching the officer repeatedly to the head. When the second female officer tried to help, he attempted to punch her but did not connect. All three then fell to the ground and Mr McIlroy grabbed the neck of one female officer.
A concerned member of the public stepped in and helped to restrain Mr McIlroy until more police officers arrived.
Mr McIlroy was charged with two counts of assaulting an officer in the execution of their duty, one count of assaulting an officer causing actual bodily harm, resisting an officer in the execution of their duty, and wilfully obstructing an officer.
“It is indeed a very serious incident of gratuitous, wanton, vengeful, probably even sexist violence by the defendant against the police when told by them to mind his own business and go away,” Ms Giles said.
She said Mr McIlroy was diagnosed with the degenerative brain condition Huntington’s disease in 2007, which causes a progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain and symptoms including lack of impulse control, outbursts and acting without thinking.
The magistrate said the condition had killed “a number of the male members of his family” and Mr McIlroy had an estimated 10 years left to live.
She said she was reluctant to dismiss the charges on mental health grounds – because they are “very serious matters for which the community rightly condemns him” – but on balance it is more appropriate to deal with him in the health system, not the justice system.
“This is not a Section 32 I wanted to grant,” Ms Giles said. “In a perfect world the police would not be assaulted and people would not have their brains die at 47.”
Ms Giles described “gratuitous violence against police” as “endemic, prevalent and seemingly constant”.
“The courts must do everything they can to stamp it out by making examples of people,” she said. “That said, we are always told by the superior courts that defendants with mental illness or cognitive impairment are poor subjects for general deterrence.”
Ms Giles said Mr McIlroy would be subject to “exhaustive” requirements devised by a psychiatrist that are aimed at stopping future offending.
She said, regardless of her decision, “no one pretends the violence wasn’t shameful for the defendant and terrifying for both constables and the poor selfless community-minded gentleman … who stepped in to assist the constables”.
Two of Mr McIlroy’s supporters in the public gallery began to cry when his charges were dismissed.
Mr McIlroy stood up and said “thank you, your honour”. He then attempted to hug the police officer in charge of the case and said, “I’m sorry.”
Mr McIlroy, a Silver Logie nominee, spent 12 years on Home and Away as Flynn Saunders, who was married to Kate Ritchie’s character Sally Fletcher.
Georgina Mitchell is a court reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.