Belfast Telegraph

Hospital attack thug fails to overturn jail sentence

By Nevin Farrell

A hospital patient who claimed he believed he was "going to be taken hostage" when he punched a doctor and nurse in the face has failed in his appeal against a four-month prison sentence.

Brian McLaughlin (30), of Castle Street, Ballycastle, was jailed at Coleraine Magistrates Court last month when District Judge Liam McNally said he had to "draw the line" at such attacks.

The defendant, who has a criminal record, was released on £500 bail pending appeal.

But at the County Court in Antrim yesterday the appeal was dismissed and the jail term affirmed.

At the earlier hearing, a prosecutor said police were called to the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine on the evening of April 24 this year after reports of an "agitated" patient wandering round "pestering" other patients.

McLaughlin tried to leave a ward and enter a surgical ward. He activated a fire alarm and had to be sedated.

While that was happening, he punched a doctor twice on the back of the head. It took eight staff to return the defendant to bed and as he struggled he lashed out and again punched the doctor, this time in the face, and also punched an auxiliary nurse in the face.

At the Magistrates Court McLaughlin had admitted charges of assault and disorderly behaviour.

Defence barrister Francis Rafferty told the court that the defendant was an alcoholic who was downing a bottle of vodka a day.

He said McLaughlin had relapsed on a number of occasions and accepted his behaviour at the hospital "went far beyond the Pale".

Mr Rafferty said that because of a combination of medication and alcohol on the day in question his client "believed himself to be somewhere else" and panicked, thinking "at one stage that he was going to be taken hostage".

The defence lawyer said McLaughlin was aware that members of the medical profession had a right to go about their business without being attacked.

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