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Worker's tears after judge rules she assaulted vulnerable Muckamore Abbey patient

By Chris Kilpatrick

A care worker fought back tears as she was convicted of pulling a mentally disabled patient from a sofa onto the floor in what a judge said was a wholly unjustified assault.

Karen Hayes (54), of Barra Street in Antrim, was found guilty of common assault on the female patient at Muckamore Abbey in the town in November 2012.

It happened in the ward of the hospital which houses patients with the most severe mental disabilities.

She was acquitted of three counts of ill-treatment of a mental health patient and another charge of assault against the same patient the previous month.

A former colleague of Ms Hayes, Margaret Hill (71), was acquitted of all five counts of ill-treating a patient and two of common assault.

Ms Hill of Gateside Mews, Ballyclare, had been alleged to have told the same patient on a date in October 2012 to "get the f*** out of my face".

She vehemently denied using any such language.

"That didn't happen because I don't speak like that," she said.

Both Ms Hill and Ms Hayes were acquitted in relation to that incident during which they had also been accused of rough-handling and leaving the patient outside in the rain afterwards.

The allegations against the women were made by two care workers from another facility who had separately visited Muckamore on October 9 and November 7, 2012.

During a lengthy contest hearing at Antrim Magistrates Court yesterday, one, Naomi Dobbin, gave evidence as to behaviour she deemed inappropriate in October.

The judge acquitted both Ms Hill and Ms Hayes of any wrongdoing in relation to that incident.

Evidence was previously given from another care worker, Hayley McFaul, who was present at Muckamore in November 2012.

She travelled from Australia to give her account to the court.

Ms McFaul told the court she saw Ms Hayes pull the sleeping patient from a sofa onto the floor.

She was said to have landed on her back. Ms Hayes then said: "I don't like to be woken from my sleep."

In response Ms Hayes told the court: "It's totally untrue."

She added: "I really don't know where this has all come from. I'm just bewildered by the whole thing."

District Judge Alan White said in dealing with the majority of the allegations against the women he could in no way say beyond reasonable doubt criminal offences had been committed.

"I have to bear in mind the incidents happened two years ago and I also have to bear in mind the patients in question are hugely challenging patients," he said.

He said he accepted given the nature of the care staff's work "some degree of force would be required on occasion".

He acquitted Ms Hill of all charges, but said he believed the account given by Ms McFaul in regard to Ms Hayes having pulled the woman from the sofa to the floor. As he delivered his verdict Ms Hill patted the knee of her distressed former colleague.

Judge White ordered pre-sentence reports. Ms Hayes will be sentenced next month.

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