A Brisbane father suing a judge for wrongfully jailing him during divorce proceedings has broken down explaining how he attempted to take his life in custody.
The man known by court pseudonym Mr Stradford explained he was crushed after calling two lawyers and being told he either needed to find $15,000 to pay legal fees or wait months before he could appeal.
"I thought there's no way I'm getting out of here," he told the Federal Court on Monday.
"That's it, I'm here, I'm helpless, I'm not getting out of this place."
His thoughts spiralled before a rare opportunity to suicide presented itself in front of him, he said.
But, as he began the process, speakers in the Brisbane watchhouse began playing his younger daughter's favourite song.
"She was singing (it) the weekend before, in the kitchen," Mr Stradford said, sobbing and reaching for tissues.
"And then the lunatic who was in there with me, was really nice for five minutes, saying 'don't do it'.
"I'm so glad that song came on ... of all the times a song would come on, (it was) at that moment."
Mr Stradford is personally suing Salvatore Vasta for false imprisonment and abuse of process, arguing the federal judge acted beyond his judicial powers.
Judge Vasta jailed the Brisbane father-of-two in December 2018 after mistakenly believing another judge had found Mr Stradford in contempt of court orders.
The orders related to the production of details of betting accounts in property settlement proceedings.
Mr Stradford spent six nights in custody before a lawyer pointed out the mistake to Judge Vasta and the judge stayed the order.
An appeal court later overturned the finding and sentence, describing the proceedings as "beset with various specific breaches of the rules of natural justice" and "a gross miscarriage of justice".
The father is claiming aggravated damages, with an expert estimating psychiatric injury from the wrongful imprisonment caused the loss of earnings of $2.5 million.
A defence expert says the real figure is about $200,000.
The case acts as a rare test of judicial immunity, with a previous hearing told the last known time a judicial officer was personally held liable for damages was 1965.
"The process to which Mr (Stradford) was subjected was the grossest parody of the court hearing," Perry Herzfeld SC said in opening remarks on Monday.
There was no charge of contempt, no finding, no opportunity for Mr Stradford to make submissions and no opportunity for him to lead evidence, he said, comparing the conduct to that of the foul-tempered Queen of Hearts in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, who said: "sentence first - verdict afterwards".
But Judge Vasta's lawyer characterised the error as a mistake within the realm of those overturned by appeal courts daily.
"He is a human being, he made a mistake," Jeremy Kirk SC said.
"It was a mistake with significant consequences but it was a human mistake."
Judge Vasta would take a backseat in the case, owing to the "awkwardness (of) appearing on the litigious battlefield".
But Mr Kirk attacked condemnatory rhetoric such as Mr Herzfeld's "grossest parody" remark.
Beyond remarks supporting a claim that Judge Vasta abused his government power and operated "high-handed or outrageous" conduct, "epithets ... tempting as they are, do not affect the legal analysis, and rather distract from it," Mr Kirk said.
Mr Stradford has also made false imprisonment claims against the federal and Queensland governments.
Each government is defending the claim by saying its officers were duty-bound to obey a judicial warrant.
The hearing, before Justice Michael Wigney, is expected to run until next week.
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Australian Associated Press