Nurse's jail term for sex attack on elderly patient 'not enough'
A five-year sentence for an auxiliary nurse who mounted a disgusting sex attack on an elderly disabled patient has been attacked by a series of politicians.
David Hull (58) attacked the woman when she was a patient at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald on the outskirts of Belfast last year.
Several leading MLAs have questioned the severity of the sentence for the attack, which was described as a breach of trust "of the worst kind," which left the victim traumatised and physically affected her condition.
Jailing Hull at Downpatrick Crown Court, Judge Piers Grant told the pervert he had committed a serious breach of the trust which left his 65-year-old victim suffering a "significant degree" of harm.
The judge said: "She was hopelessly defenceless from you.
"There was nothing she could do to escape and nothing she could do to prevent it in any way."
At an earlier court hearing, Hull, from Main Street in Carrowdore, had pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual assault on the female pensioner while she was an in-patient at the Ulster Hospital on September 2 last year.
The victim did not report the incident until the following day, fearing Hull would either come back while she was still on the ward, or would use her medical notes and records to get her home address. The court heard how the victim was vulnerable and bed-bound.
She had been admitted to hospital when she developed a chest infection and had had a lower leg amputated.
The carer attacked her as he changed her dressings.
At the time, and with the curtains closed around the victim's bed, Hull refused the offer of help made by a fellow female nurse, and Judge Grant told him that would have been his first opportunity to "face up to the wickedness" of his actions against his "vulnerable, defenceless and severely handicapped" victim.
"The patient who goes into hospital with a serious condition makes an enormous investment of trust in the hospital staff, and the hospital in turn train staff and trust them to give care to patients on the basis that they will perform appropriately without abusing that trust," the judge said and told Hull his behaviour was a "serious breach" of that trust.
A series of MLAs said they were concerned at the length of the sentence.
Health Committee chair Maeve McLaughlin said: "When you put your faith in somebody to look after you, your family and the elderly, vulnerable and sick, it is a breach of trust of the worst kind."
The Sinn Fein MLA continued: "If people are to bring forward these issues, they need to have faith in the judicial system."
Ulster Unionist Health spokesman Roy Beggs said: "Anyone who could have done this is a danger to society, and the level of sentence should reflect that.
"Each of us would be appalled if an elderly relative of ours had been abused in such a fashion.
"I have to question if the sentence was severe enough."
His party colleague, Tom Elliot, said: "The punishment does not fit the crime, because it was an abuse of trust of patients and their families.
"There needs to be a strong and proper deterrent in place. Five years in this respect seems minimal."
The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said Hull was immediately suspended after the incident and his employment will now be terminated.
Hull will spend half of his five-year jail term in custody and half on licence and will be on the Sex Offender's Register for life.
He has also been barred from working with children or vulnerable adults and must adhere to a lifelong Sexual Offences Prevention Order.
Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances such as early guilty pleas, cooperation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors such as intent and excessive violence.
"The punishment does not fit the crime because it was an abuse of trust of patients and their families. There needs to be a strong and proper deterrent in place – five years in this respect seems minimal."
UUP MLA Tom Elliott