Belfast Telegraph

Belfast woman who assaulted police 'had no control over actions'

Kirsty McKernan appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court on Wednesday (stock photo)
Kirsty McKernan appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court on Wednesday (stock photo)

By Alan Erwin

A Belfast woman who kicked officers and spat in their faces as part of nine separate assaults on police had no control over her actions, a court has heard.

Kirsty McKernan's lawyer claimed her drug and alcohol-fuelled outbursts of violence and disorderly behaviour stemmed from a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

The 29-year-old, of Garmoyle Street, pleaded guilty to a series of offences committed over four separate incidents.

As well as the assaults on police, she admitted disorderly behaviour on a city street and in a hospital, along with possessing cannabis and Xanax drugs.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard she was found screaming and offering to fight officers called to University Street on October 11 last year.

Prosecutors said she responded to being arrested by spitting in the face of one policeman and kicking two others on their legs.

On February 1 this year she was detained again after attending the Mater Hospital with apparently self-inflicted wounds and verbally abusing staff.

Despite warnings about her behaviour she again kicked out at and spat on PSNI officers.

Later that month she again lashed out at police called to a hotel in the city.

McKernan struck one constable in the chest, another on the leg, and spat in the face of a third officer, the court was told.

In the most recent incident, on April 19, she was found to have quantities of drugs on her.

A defence lawyer attributed all of the offences to her client's addiction issues and poor mental health.

McKernan's paranoid schizophrenia has led to episodes of aggression and volatility, it was contended.

"It's offending beyond her control, especially when under the influence of alcohol and drugs," the lawyer said.

"However, she has shown remorse over her actions."

Identifying the complex issues involved, District Judge Fiona Bagnall said she wanted McKernan assessed to see if she is suitable for the substance misuse court set up to provide a treatment programme for eligible offenders.

Adjourning the case to next month, Mrs Bagnall said: "This is a lady who needs support and help, as opposed to custody, if we can stop the offending."

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