A DRUG-fuelled man stole from patients, including rummaging through coats at a cardiac rehabilitation unit, during a theft spree at Antrim Area Hospital.
Michael Connors (26), of Rock Mills in Derry/Londonderry, also lifted money bags sitting beside a till in a hospital restaurant.
The defendant appeared at Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, on Tuesday for sentencing on charges including theft of car keys, mobile phones and a coat.
Connors appeared via a video link from Maghaberry Prison as a prosecutor said at 9.20am on January 31, 2019, the defendant entered a "secure" ward and went to unoccupied bed.
He began to look around and told other patients not to worry as it was his "aunt's" bed, before stealing a patient's mobile phone from a table.
Connors told patients "Tell her I am away to get something".
He then left and entered a maternity ward but was located by staff and removed.
At 9.40am at a hospital restaurant Connors went through 'staff only' doors and stole a coat from a staff changing room.
He then went into the restaurant and asked a staff member to make him something to eat.
Connors was told it was 'self service' and became "irate".
He said he was unable to work a coffee machine and as a staff member left a till to help him and went to get a cup, the defendant grabbed bags of money sitting beside the till.
Another staff member told him to drop the bags but Connors went up to his face, whilst shouting, putting him in fear of assault
Connors then left the main hospital and went to nearby Fern House which, the prosecutor said, provides rehabilitation for cardiac patients.
Around 11am he rummaged through the coats of patients who were attending a rehabilitation course, stealing keys for a BMW and a Vauxhall Insignia, along with a mobile phone.
Staff followed Connors and when challenged he returned the keys and "left the area" and was then arrested.
The prosecutor said all the items taken were recovered except for a mobile phone.
Defence barrister Ben Thompson said it was an "extremely unpleasant case".
He said: "One can only imagine how distressing this would be for any of the different patients who would have been privy to Connors going through or attempting to go through their belongings".
The lawyer said Connors had "extremely profound difficulties with substances" and on the date in question was "heavily under the influence of Xanax".
He said since the offences Connors had received eight prison terms.
Given the amount of time the defendant had subsequently been in custody for other offences, if the hospital case been dealt with more promptly, it would not have greatly added to his time in custody, the defence lawyer said.
District Judge Nigel Broderick said the defendant had a very poor record and they were serious offences.
The judge said the defendant had gone into the "confines of a hospital" and stolen personal belongings.
Judge Broderick said he was "at a loss" as to why the hospital case was not brought to court more promptly.
He said the defence lawyer made a valid point that if Connors had been dealt with sooner any sentence for the hospital matters would have formed part of his overall sentence.
For the hospital spree, Connors was given a six months prison term, suspended for a year.
- Main picture: File image of Antrim Area Hospital.