ARMIDALE man and former NSW RSL president Don Rowe has failed in a bid to have two fraud charges dealt with on mental health grounds.
Mr Rowe, 71, was charged this year with two counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception after he allegedly used an RSL credit card to pay for thousands of dollars of personal expenses for his family.
He has pleaded not guilty.
It is alleged Mr Rowe used his RSL card to pay $9069.07 to Optus between September 2012 and November 2014, for four phone services used by his family, as well as paying $363 for his daughter to stay three nights in a Sydney hotel.
On Friday, he applied in Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court to have the charges dealt with under section 32 of the Mental Health Act, under which charges can be dismissed.
Magistrate Michael Barko rejected the application, saying although Mr Rowe has "very real" mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he was not satisfied the issues have any causal connection to the alleged offending.
He said Mr Rowe "served this country and the free democratic world" in the Vietnam War and has suffered upon his return to Australia, no doubt being met with mobs who spat on Vietnam veterans and called them child killers.
"In this particular case the defendant's mental health conditions have been chronic, long-term, and very real," magistrate Barko said.
He said notwithstanding those chronic conditions, Mr Rowe "rose to the heady rank" of president of the state RSL, which is "a revered organisation" though it is recognised these days for poker machines.
"He was functioning in that capacity for a long term, and fulfilling his role," magistrate Barko said.
He described the alleged offences as not being sophisticated - "it's just pull out the credit card, give someone your details, and your card is debited" - and said if Mr Rowe is found guilty he is unlikely to be jailed.
Speaking outside court, Mr Rowe said the result was "disappointing in one way" and he would be talking to his solicitor to see what to do next.
"Just sort of looking forward to seeing the end of it, to be honest," he said.
"It's not an easy task [living] with PTSD as many of our veterans have found out."
Mr Rowe resigned as president of NSW RSL in 2014.
His case will return to court on August 19.