Prison term for hospital assault

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A woman who assaulted a member of the security staff inside Craigavon Area Hospital was sentenced to four months in prison on December 23 at Craigavon Magistrates Court.

Laura McCartan (22), Enniskeen, Craigavon, admitted unlawful assault on a male person on October 10, 2014.

The court heard that in the early hours of the morning police attended at Craigavon Area Hospital after a report of a disturbance in a ward in the accident and emergency department.

On arrival they saw three security staff restraining the defendant who was shouting and swearing and causing distress to other patients. She struck a member of staff on the back of the head. The ward was at full capacity with elderly and sick patients who were alarmed by her behaviour.

McCartan was cautioned about 6am and said that she wanted to go out and have a smoke and was not allowed. She admitted punching the injured party on the top of the back and shoulder area.

District Judge, Mr Paul Copeland, said she was facing an immediate custodial sentence given the aggravated circumstances. A barrister representing McCartan said her client had self-harmed and had been put into a ward for observation.

She added the defendant wanted to go out for a cigarette and that was when the incident happened. She had one previous conviction for assault but that did not happen in a hospital. The barrister pointed out that this took place in October 2014 and since then there had been no further incidents.

She said that McCartan was engaging with the community addictions team and asked the court to give her a last chance.

Judge Copeland said it was an extremely serious matter and the custody threshold was met. He added that courts took a very serious view of an assault on hospital personnel who were going about their lawful business. He said. “The courts have to send out a message that abuse of hospital staff will not be tolerated.”