Pair who attacked patient as he lay in coma avoid jail
Two women who admitted assaulting a seriously ill patient and medical staff in the intensive care unit at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry have been given suspended jail sentences.
Biddy Mongan (24), from Stanley's Walk in Derry, and Eileen Stokes (30), from Mourne Park in Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone, both pleaded guilty at the city's Magistrates Court to assaulting Paddy Mongan and three members of the medical staff last January 4.
A prosecution solicitor told District Judge Barney McElholm that Mr Mongan, who was the partner of the defendant Stokes and the brother of the defendant Mongan, had been admitted to hospital with serious head injuries.
He was unconscious in an induced coma when the two defendants, both of them drunk, attacked him as he lay in his bed.
The defendants had earlier been verbally abusive and aggressive to staff when they were refused entry to the ward.
"During the assaults the defendants punched Mr Mongan to the head and pulled at his fluid drips.
"Mr Mongan's condition became unstable and his pulse rate increased.
"The attacks were witnessed by other patients and by visitors in the ward," the solicitor said.
"At one stage during the incident a doctor leaned over Mr Mongan's head in an attempt to protect him.
"Other ICU staff members, with the help of colleagues who left other patients to come to their assistance, managed to force Stokes and Mongan out of the ward."
A defence solicitor said the assaults in a hospital situation "were as bad as it could get" and nothing he could say could diminish the seriousness of the incident.
He said there were only two aspects of credit in relation to the incident; the first that Mr Mongan made a full recovery, and the second that the defendants both made immediate admissions.
The judge imposed a four-month jail sentence, suspended for three years, on Mongan and a three-month sentence, suspended for two years, on Stokes.
He said he took into consideration the fact Mongan had spent the equivalent of a four-month jail sentence in custody and that Stokes had spent the equivalent of a three-month jail sentence in custody on the charges.
Mr McElholm said the maximum sentence he could impose in the case was six months imprisonment, but because both women had pleaded guilty immediately, gave them a discount in sentence.
"This was an extremely serious and a disgraceful incident which could have had fatal consequences for Mr Mongan," he said.
"The staff in the hospital must be commended for the way they reacted to an incident which occurred in a hospital, which should be a place of sanctuary for staff, patients and for visitors."