Former Wollongong taxi driver a risk to public, court told

A man was arrested outside Parliament House on December 20. Picture GETTY
A man was arrested outside Parliament House on December 20. Picture GETTY

A former Wollongong taxi driver charged over a two-hour siege outside NSW parliament poses a serious risk to the public and should not be released on bail, a Sydney magistrate has been told.

Abdula Ganiji, 58, appeared via video link before Central Local Court on Monday charged over the December 20 incident.

He was refused bail.

The Wollongong man caused a lockdown of Macquarie Street in Sydney’s inner city when he drove his car onto the footpath outside parliament and allegedly made a number of threats.

A two-litre fruit juice container, fuel and a cigarette lighter were allegedly found after a dozen heavily-armed tactical officers swarmed his car, fired a canister of gas inside and dragged him into custody.

He was charged with threatening sabotage, possessing an explosive device to damage property, and threatening to destroy or damage property.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Ross Mitchell said Ganiji had a ‘‘history of strifes and interaction’’ with politicians and outside parliament.

In 2012 Ganiji staged a hunger strike for days outside parliament over a $200 fine he received 15 years ago.

He had called on NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell to solve a dispute with his employer, Wollongong Radio Cabs.

Sergeant Mitchell said the charges against Ganiji were of the ‘‘utmost seriousness’’.

‘‘It’s an amateurish thing he’s done, but there’s been some forethought and some planning,’’ he said.

However Ganiji’s barrister, Jane Healey, said her client had been assessed by a psychiatrist and posed no risk to the community.

She said only a small amount of fuel was discovered after the incident and he ‘‘did not have the capacity to destroy parliament house’’.

‘‘This accused has no prior criminal record despite his history of lawful protests,’’ she said.

‘‘The threat posed by this individual were he to be released on bail is almost negligible.’’

She said Ganiji would agree to a number of bail conditions, including a condition that he not come within two kilometres of Parliament House and continue to see his psychiatrist.

The magistrate later refused bail, citing the seriousness of the charges and the need to protect the community.

In a report tendered to court, Ganiji’s psychiatrist said his patient had thoughts of dying by burning himself or by hunger strike, and although he posed a risk to himself, he was not a danger to others.

However, Mr Mabbutt said he could not be sure of this view.

The prosecution also put forward a fresh allegation that Ganiji had more than one container and a total of 40 litres of fuel when he was arrested.

After the decision was handed down, Ms Healey, on behalf of her client, put in a plea of not guilty to the charge of threatening sabotage.

The matter will return to court on January 20.