The former Silverchair frontman is now sober and “the real Daniel Johns”, his family told a judge who spared the musician jail time for drunk driving and crashing his car.
The singer faced Raymond Terrace Local Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to high-range drink driving in the NSW Hunter region at about 10.30pm on March 23.
Magistrate Ian Cheetham said the charge was serious but Johns’ background and circumstances were exceptional in handing him a 10-month jail sentence to be served by way of intensive corrections order.
Since his meteoric rise to fame as a 14-year-old Johns has suffered from anorexia from his early 20s, complex PTSD, major depressive disorder, alcohol use disorder, personality disorder, and severe and chronic pain associated with reactive arthritis.
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The court was told the release of his new album FutureNever had triggered a decline in Johns’ mental health before the crash.
“While in rehab his album hit number one but what needs to hit number one is his mental health,” his lawyer Bryan Wrench said.
Some of Johns’ mental health issues stem from the physical and emotional abuse he suffered at school, threats of homophobia and stalking since unwanted fame.
He has been vilified in the media including in an article that purported Johns was visiting a brothel while out one night, completely untrue and the subject of a successful defamation suit, the court was told.
Since his discharge from rehab in June he has remained a recluse in his home.
“If he ventures outside that’s when he’s worried about people attacking him,” Mr Wrench said.
“It’s his only safe spot.”
Mr Wrench said his client was at pains to show the court how serious he had taken the charge, remaining abstinent from alcohol and not attending any in-person events after his album was released.
His mother and brother – who have never spoken publicly about Johns before – made statements to the court that despite how serious the crash was, they were glad it prompted the treatment he needed.
“He is the real Daniel Johns that they love and have grown up to love,” Mr Wrench said.
Leading up to the incident his album release led to panic attacks, stomach ulcers, vomiting and other physical ailments.
His partner took him to a holiday retreat to “escape the stressors”.
But Johns continued to self-medicate with a bottle of wine and a can of vodka he later told police, and “simply got in the car and simply drove to get away,” Mr Wrench said.
He left with nothing on him and was eventually located via a tile tracker attached to his bag.
Johns had driven his grey SUV out of a service station on the Pacific Highway at North Arm Cove and headed north in rainy conditions before crossing onto the wrong side of the road and crashing into a van.
The van rolled and slid about 100 metres onto a nature strip while Johns’ car also rolled several times, according to the facts of the case.
The van driver, 51, and his female passenger, 55, were treated at the scene and the woman was taken to hospital.
Johns was breathalysed and returned a blood alcohol level of 0.157, and voluntarily admitted himself into a rehabilitation facility after the accident.
The magistrate ordered Johns to continue his medical treatment and disqualified him from driving for seven months.