Belfast Telegraph

Man (21) jailed for spiking drink of prison officer

By John Cassidy

A man has been jailed for a month for spiking the drink of a female prison officer while he was in custody.

Bernard Cooke (21), of Magilligan Point Road in Limavady, pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to administering a poison to aggrieve the warder.

The court heard that Cooke was serving a sentence for robbery at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre in Belfast in May last year when the incident happened.

A prosecution lawyer said the prison officer had been helping Cooke, who had a history of self-harming.

"She took a drink from her soft drink can and started to have a metallic taste in her mouth,'' a prosecution lawyer told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland.

"She noticed a white powder substance around the top of the can. She took it to the security office and staff examined it with a field test kit.

"The can was sent to the Northern Ireland Forensic Science Agency and it was found to contain Mebeverin, an anti-spasmodic drug used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.''

The victim reported the incident to the governor and following a review of CCTV footage on the landing, Cooke was seen placing something in her can. "When she found it was Cooke she went into shock,'' said the lawyer.

The prison officer was advised to go to accident and emergency at the Ulster Hospital.

An examination revealed she was suffering from low blood pressure and a high heartbeat.

The court heard the warder returned to work the next day but was later sent home as she found it difficult to cope. The lawyer said that as a result of the incident, the prison officer spent a total of 185 days off work.

He added: "She has since returned to work but on lesser duties. She is still upset and angry about this incident.''

Judge McFarland was told that when interviewed, Cooke, who is serving a 16-month sentence for robbery, told police that he thought he had given her a laxative, adding that it was only done as a "joke''.

A defence barrister told the court that Cooke had "accepted his responsibility for his actions''.

Sentencing Cooke, Judge McFarland said: "You said it was done for a joke but this clearly was not a joke for her. It was very serious.''

Cooke was due to be released in May but will now spend an extra month in custody for this offence.

Belfast Telegraph


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