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‘Shave your legs’: Gold Coast man suing judge who jailed him details harrowing moments behind bars

A Gold Coast man has told of the terrifying days he spent behind bars at a maximum-security prison after he claims he was “falsely imprisoned”.

The father-of-two, who is being referred to by the pseudonym Mr Stradford, is suing Federal Court Judge Salvatore Paul Vasta, claiming he wrongfully jailed him.

Mr Stradford claims he was imprisoned without lawful justification, was beaten and strangled in prison, became suicidal and is now suffering multimillion-dollar losses in past and future incomes.

He took to the stand for the second day at the Federal Court in Canberra where he recalled the harrowing six days he spent behind bars including the moment a “fried” inmate told him he’d be “sexier if he shaved his legs”.

Mr Stradford described the moment the inmate continued to stare at him after he arrived at the maximum-security Brisbane Correctional Centre.

“Another inmate said, ‘you’ve got to be careful with this bloke. He’s fried and on ice’,” he told the court.

“I felt uncomfortable.”

He told the court the man also “grabbed his arse” and would follow him down to his jail cell and stand outside.

Mr Stradford was also struck in the head by another inmate who told him “not to f–king touch that” when he went to grab a slice of toast at breakfast.

News BCM 9-08-2012 Sal (Salvatore) Vasta  Barrister with Department of Public Prosecutions Pic NORRISH (iPad)
Camera IconSalvatore Paul Vasta is being sued by a man who claims he was falsely imprisoned. Credit: News Limited

He later broke down in court when he recalled the moment he got a phone call to say he had won his appeal and would be “getting out today”.

But things went downhill after he left prison as he has struggled to process the ordeal, which he told the court had affected his work, social life, mental health and wellbeing.

“I had to go through the worst and then pulled back out and left to deal with it,” Mr Stradford said.

The two-week long hearing began on Monday at the Federal Court in Canberra where Mr Stradford’s barrister, Perry Herzfeld SC, told the court Judge Vasta’s behaviour was the “grossest parody of a court hearing”.

In 2018, Mr Stradford and his then-wife appeared in the Federal Circuit Court seeking property adjustment orders for their marital assets.

During the proceedings, Judge Vasta ordered an unrepresented Mr Stradford to provide financial statements to the court.

He said he tried his best to produce them but could not.

But Mr Stradford was handed a 12-month jail sentence after Judge Vasta found him in contempt of court for not providing financial documents.

The sentence was quickly overturned by the full bench of the Family Court on appeal, who described the decision as a “gross miscarriage” of justice.

Camera IconSalvatore Paul Vasta was described as a Queen of Hearts who was in the “jurisdiction of Wonderland”. Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Herzfeld said Mr Stradford was found guilty without being given the time to defend himself.

He alleged in court that Judge Vasta used the threat of contempt of court in an attempt to settle the proceedings between the couple.

Mr Herzfeld also likened the judge to Lewis Carroll’s foul-tempered Queen of Hearts by saying the court that Judge Vasta operated in was in the “jurisdiction of Wonderland”.

The Gold Coast father spent six nights behind bars, first at the Brisbane watch-house, then at the maximum-security Brisbane Correctional Centre.

Judge Vasta’s barrister, Jeremy Kirk SC, told the court he was only “a human being” who made a mistake, thinking another judge found Mr Stradford guilty of contempt.

Mr Stradford is suing for about $2 million in damages for deprivation of liberty and serious psychiatric injuries, where the court heard he is unable to work full-time.

The hearing continues.

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