'Scared' nurse used folder to block spit attack at Antrim Area Hospital

'Scared' nurse used folder to block spit attack at Antrim Area Hospital

AN Antrim Area Hospital nurse who used a folder to block a spit attack from a patient said such incidents are occurring too often and staff are scared something serious will happen, a court heard.

Details emerged at Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, where Garry John Junior Gregg (37), of Adelaide Avenue, Whitehead, was sentenced for assault.

The court heard there was a concern for the safety of Gregg who was found drunk with a bottle of Buckfast at Blackhead Path at Whitehead on October 10 this year. He had said he "wanted to end it all".

He was taken to hospital and whilst waiting to be seen by the Mental Health Team he spat at a nurse who was able to jump back and use a folder "as a shield".

A prosecutor said the nurse was "scared".

Gregg admitted to police he had spat because he was "agitated" and being asked questions when he was tired and "wanted to go home".

A defence barrister said Gregg had planned to "jump off a bridge" on October 10 and although the hospital offence was connected to his state of mental health there was "no excuse for assaulting a member of NHS staff".

At the hospital he had been "pacing about breathing rather erratically" but "thankfully the spit landed on the folder rather than on the victim."

He said Gregg is remorseful and is now in touch with a Mental Health Team.

The lawyer said the defendant is a "gifted dog trainer" and had set up a business in 2019 but it fell through due to the pandemic although he is currently training a puppy for competitions.

Jailing Gregg for three months, District Judge Nigel Broderick said: "I want to make it clear this is a very serious offence. To assault a member of the staff in the hospital is totally unacceptable and sadly all too prevalent in society, for whatever reason.

"It is difficult to understand why anyone would assault those who are carrying out their job and trying to help you.

"And then to spit at somebody in the middle of a pandemic is a further aggravating feature".

The judge said he read a victim impact statement from the nurse and she said the spitting incident had a "quite a profound effect" upon her.

The judge said the nurse said "that these type of incidents are happening too often in our emergency departments  and they fear that a member of staff is going to get seriously hurt".

Judge Broderick said there were two elements to his sentence - one being punishment for Gregg and the other being an "element of deterrent".

He added: "If people realise that if they go into hospital and they assault anyone then they are likely to receive a custodial sentence that will hopefully act as a deterrent to make them think twice and not to behave in that fashion".

Bail was fixed for appeal in the sum of £500.

  • Main picture: File image of Antrim Area Hospital.