26 May 2023

Man accused of Yass Hotel fire granted strict bail due to 'enormous risk' posed by mental health issues

| Claire Fenwicke
Queanbeyan Courthouse

Mr Whilliams appeared via audio-visual link for his bail review hearing at Queanbeyan Local Court. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

CONTENT WARNING: This article mentions mental health issues and suicide.

A Sydney man accused of setting Yass Hotel ablaze earlier this week has been granted strict bail over concerns he could harm himself while in custody.

Shyhiem Whilliams appeared in Queanbeyan Local Court on Friday (26 May) via audio-visual link from the Goulburn Correctional Complex for the bail mention after he was ordered by Goulburn Local Court to be taken to and detained in a mental health facility for assessment.

He’s been charged with damage by fire to property worth more than $15,000, and no pleas have been entered.

The police prosecutor on Friday (26 May) opposed bail, stating Mr Williams had been on bail at the time of the alleged offending and had been given a chance to be “dealt with under mental health [orders]” before, but “[that’s] failed to address his criminality and criminal behaviour”.

However, Mr Whilliams’ defence lawyer submitted that his client had been off medication for an unmentioned mental health condition and was “unwell”.

READ ALSO UPDATED: Clare Nowland has died peacefully in Cooma Hospital, police say

Magistrate Roger Clisdell said he was surprised that a psychiatrist had noted Mr Whilliams had displayed suicidal tendencies and that a bail review was still required.

“He is an enormous risk of self-harm [if he remains in custody],” Magistrate Clisdell said.

He said while he was concerned that Mr Whilliams was “a long way from where he was meant to be” at the time of the fire, he felt the risk to Mr Whilliams’ health outweighed the danger to society and was comfortable granting bail under strict conditions.

“If I remand him in custody, I might be issuing a death sentence,” Magistrate Clisdell said.

“It’s more likely than not he’s severely unwell.”

Restrictions imposed included that Mr Whilliams must stay at a Carlingford address, he cannot leave the home unless under supervision with an approved person, he’s under curfew between 7 pm and 7 am, he must report to police every day, get in touch with various mental health services, and cannot come within 50 km of Yass.

“Thank you,” Mr Whilliams said to Magistrate Clisdell.

Mr Whilliams’ case is next scheduled for mention on 21 June.

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.