A Lismore District Court trial descended into chaos this week.
A Lismore District Court trial descended into chaos this week. Cathy Adams

Angry witness throws coffee at barrister during trial

AN ANGRY witness has hurled a coffee cup at a defence barrister and stormed out of a Lismore courtroom during the middle of a trial.

The Lismore District Court jury watched as witness Nathan Joyce, a 33-year-old Tweed Heads man with a history of drug addiction, told barrister Benjamin Bickford to "get f**cked" after walking out of the witness box - and the court room - midway through being cross-examined.

Mr Joyce was giving evidence into the drug supply case against Serbian born Tweed man Branislav Napregaca, 38, who is charged with dealing a commercial quantity of pharmaceutical opiate tablets and the supply of 1.16g of the drug ice.

He has revealed intimate details of an ice dealing operation run out of a seedy Tweed Heads boarding house where he lived and which was managed by the 38-year-old accused.

Police conducted three raids on the property in 2014 which culminated in Napregaca being charged.

It was in room 10 of the boarding house where Napregaca allegedly stashed drugs in a number of places including a tool box, a miniature safe, and at other times fake power drills and screwdrivers with secret compartments, and in a ceiling gap next to a fake surveillance camera.

"Everyone at the doss house bought drugs from him," Mr Joyce told the Crown.

Mr Joyce said he ran errands for the accused, which included occasional drug couriering, and did various other chores in exchange for a small amount of ice at the end of each day.

Once a week he would also go to Surfers Paradise to buy bulk quantities of 30cm glass piping, which Napregaca would use to manufacture glass ice pipes to sell as a sideline business.

During his testimony he was shown photos of a toolbox with drugs, baggies, and glass tubes in it and confirmed they were the property of the accused.

The disability pensioner had been living in the boarding house at 41 Enid St since 2003 and been a daily drug user.

He fidgeted and complained about the extent of the questioning several times during the testimony.

But it was under cross-examination by the accused's barrister, Mr Bickford, that Mr Joyce lost control of himself in front of the jury.

Looking increasingly frustrated as Mr Bickford questioned the truth of his testimony, Mr Joyce suddenly lost it, blurting out "he's an a**hole" in the barrister's direction.

"You can get f***ked," he then shouted.

He stood up, strode down from the witness box, and as he passed the bar he tossed his coffee over Mr Bickford's robes.

The scene threw the courtroom into chaos for a moment with the jury looking highly bemused.

Judge L Wells immediately adjourned the proceedings and Mr Joyce came very close to copping a contempt of court charge.

However he was given a long break to recover his composure and grab another coffee.

After a lunchtime adjournment he was able to return to the witness box and finish his testimony before the jury.

But his ordeal was not over, as Napregaca's barrister picked over his criminal history, which included shoplifting charges, dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, and having goods suspected of being stolen.

The witness also spent four months in jail this year and was released in September.

Ultimately the barrister suggested the witness was lying about the accused's involvement in the drug dealing operation in order to deflect police attention away from him following the police raid in June 2014.

He said he gave police "a story about Mr Napregaca supplying drugs" in order to evade responsibility for his role in the criminal enterprise.

Mr Joyce repeatedly denied the suggestion which was put to him several times.

Eventually, the witness's ordeal was over and he was asked by Judge L Wells he could step down from the witness box as he had fulfilled his service to the justice system.

He said to her: "Thank you Your Honour, I appreciate it. Sorry about that before."

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