Judge says sentencing powers 'inadequate' as he jails woman for kicking nurse

Judge says sentencing powers 'inadequate' as he jails woman for kicking nurse

A JUDGE said his sentencing powers were inadequate after he jailed a woman who kicked a nurse at the Ulster Hospital at Dundonald.

District Judge Mark Hamill was speaking at Newtownards Magistrates' Court where Sarah Jane Russell (41), of Craigleith Drive, Dundonald, admitted assault and being disorderly on May 11 this year.

A prosecutor said the defendant had been shouting and swearing and "throwing herself on the ground" in the Emergency Department which was "very busy with children and elderly people".

Russell kicked a triage nurse and when arrested and interviewed she said she had downed "so much vodka" she couldn't remember what happened.

A defence lawyer said there was a "psychiatric report" and said the "primary issue is alcoholism".

He said the defendant hoped to have an appointment with Community Addictions.

Judge Hamill read the nurse's statement and said the nurse had left the defendant's jacket down for Russell to pick up outside the hospital and when she turned her back she was kicked on the leg.

The judge said "self-induced intoxication is not going to save anybody from prison" when hospital staff are assaulted.

He said Russell had an "appalling" criminal record; her behaviour in a hospital was "appalling" and assaulting a nurse in a hospital was "intolerable".

The judge added: "The fact that my sentencing powers are limited to six months is a source of deep regret to me. Laying hands on a member of staff in a hospital should have at least twelve months but that is just by the by, I am whistling in the wind on that one".

He said: "I want people to know that no mater how drunk they are or how high on drugs they are if they behave like this in a hospital nothing will save them from custody".

Judge Hamill handed down consecutive sentences of four months on each charge, making a total of eight months in prison, which he believed was "entirely inadequate".

"I will not tolerate this type of behaviour in a hospital," the judge said.

The defendant had bail for appeal against the sentence fixed in the sum of £400.