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Doctor Eireann Kerr's conviction is a travesty

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 24/04/2015

Dr Eireann Kerr, who was convicted of biting a police officer's finger, assaulting another officer, resisting arrest and disorderly behaviour
Dr Eireann Kerr, who was convicted of biting a police officer's finger, assaulting another officer, resisting arrest and disorderly behaviour

Sometimes, the old cliche of the law being an ass rings true. Take the case of Dr Eireann Kerr, who was convicted of biting a police officer's finger, assaulting another officer, resisting arrest and disorderly behaviour. The offences took place inside a Londonderry police station where she had been taken by a taxi driver concerned about her condition.

Dr Kerr had been on a Christmas night out with colleagues. There is no doubt that she was severely intoxicated when she committed the offences, but it wasn't a case of too much booze - the court accepted that her drink had been spiked.

This is where the law seems to lack common sense. The judge, in effect, said his hands were tied. He believed her story, but even involuntary intoxication is no defence against criminal charges.

How can this be right? This is a young woman of good character. A colleague, who is also a doctor, backs up her story. There is forensic evidence to support her claim that her drink was spiked with a date rape drug. The court believes her, but it still must find her guilty of the offences.

It is bad enough that she now has a criminal record, even if most people would accept that is unfair but inevitable given the way the law is framed. But even worse, the conviction could mean she will be struck off and no longer allowed to practise as a doctor.

Hopefully, if the medical authorities do decide to investigate this case, they will be able to bring a more common-sense approach to it and realise these offences were totally out of character and that Dr Kerr, while technically guilty, would be viewed as innocent by many people.

There is also an economic argument. The state has spent many thousands of pounds training Dr Kerr. It makes no sense for that investment to be cast aside on a technicality.

But perhaps the most powerful argument in favour of Dr Kerr is the thought of what might have happened to her.

Whoever administered the date rape drug obviously had ill-intentions towards her. If she had been raped or seriously assaulted as a result of taking the spiked drink and then brought to the police station, would she have been prosecuted if she had committed the same offences? It is doubtful.

This is one of those rare cases where every party to the court case has a viable defence for their actions, yet the result appears unjust.

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