A 52-YEAR-old man’s five-month prison sentence for assault was suspended for a year at Waterford District Court.
Thomas O’Brien, with an address at 97 Grange Heights, Waterford, was being treated at the Emergency Department in University Hospital Waterford (UHW) on March 28 last when he struck and hit the left shoulder of the nurse attending him.
The nurse, the court was told by Garda Sergeant Michael Hickey (for the State), did not wish to make a victim impact statement. Judge Kevin Staunton was also informed that on the night of the incident, the nurse went on to finish his shift at UHW.
Solicitor Hilary Delahunty, defending, told the court that “in the greater scheme of things, it was a relatively minor incident, a Section 2 assault”.
O’Brien, a process engineer by trade who has worked for a range of companies, “ran into trouble 10 years ago” at a time when he broke both his arm and leg. He was subsequently diagnosed with a mental illness and is now supported by the Simon Community’s Housing First Project where he is “doing really well” according to Mr Delahunty. His client regularly attends a psychiatrist and, in an overall sense, “had managed to stabilise his life”.
The Probation Service concurred with Mr Delahunty’s assessment regarding the stability O’Brien had re-introduced into his life, the court was told.
Judge Staunton said that wider society was aware of the great pressure members of the nursing profession have experienced in recent years. Thomas O’Brien, “decided, for whatever reason, to give the nurse (treating him) a slap”.
The Judge noted that the nurse “was not making a big thing of it and just wants to get on with life, but it is not acceptable to assault a nurse”.
In imposing the sentence, Judge Staunton said the accused had been “a decent, law-abiding man until 10 years ago when something made him go off the rails, sending him into a downward spiral. But due to the fact that he is getting help and doing well, I am going to suspend it for 12 months.” However, Judge Staunton warned O’Brien that if he re-appeared before him for any offence within the next year, “you will be sent to prison”.