A psychiatric nurse who broke a patient’s nose when he punched him three times has been given a nine-month prison sentence.
Patrick Maguire, from Tollymore Brae in Newcastle, admitted causing actual bodily harm to the male mental health patient.
A judge said it was “with some regret” that he was sending him to jail.
However, he added “the public must have confidence that patients be treated as dignified human beings”.
“Being assaulted by such patients is unfortunately the lot of the profession, but retaliation such as here, cannot be tolerated and must be reflected in deterrent sentences,” Judge Patrick Lynch said.
Maguire also admitted wilfully neglecting the patient by failing to get him immediate medical attention and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
While Maguire confessed his guilt, co-accused and colleague 66-year-old John Kelly, from the Newtownhamilton Road in Armagh, was acquitted by a jury.
The patient, who suffers from a bipolar disorder, had been admitted to the Bluestone unit at Craigavon Area Hospital experiencing an “episode with psychotic features”.
He had become “extremely distressed” at the hospital’s emergency department, “threatening a member of staff,” before he was admitted to the psychiatric unit where, in the lead-up to the incident, he had set fire to a bin in his room and had thrown a chair through the window.
In the early hours of 27 October last year, the man was standing in a corridor of the unit asking for another cigarette when Maguire took him by the elbow to guide him back to bed.
The patient then “threw a punch at the defendant”.
“In retaliation” Maguire “punched him three times, full blows” to the face, causing his nose to bleed profusely.
‘Repeated the lying account’
The judge told Craigavon Crown Court, that while the incident was captured on CCTV, it was unclear whether it was the punches that knocked down the patient or if he was put to the floor by Maguire and Mr Kelly.
A female staff nurse who arrived on the ward was told “that the injured party punched the accused and during the procedure, was accidentally hit in the face by a knee,” the judge said.
Documents from the ward were seized after Maguire himself made a report which the judge said “repeated the lying account given to the staff nurse which gives rise to the count of perverting justice”.
Judge Lynch said the defence had submitted that Maguire’s retaliation had been an “impulsive reaction” but accepted “that what happened was out of proportion”.
He said the defence had highlighted that Maguire was “under immense pressure” at the time, “working additional hours in a hospital that was understaffed” and in circumstances where he had been “exposed to aggression over a protracted period of time,” had been held hostage by a patient and where a young patient in his care had died the previous year.
“The defendant has been working as a nurse for 38 years and, as the defence worded it, has never put a foot wrong but lost control on this occasion in an isolated incident,” said Judge Lynch.
Concluding his sentencing remarks, the judge told Maguire he was taking into account all that he had read about him in the reports from probation and a consultant psychiatrist, his clear record and “exemplary” NHS service, character evidence from colleagues who spoke of his “professionalism” and the “heartfelt” testimonial accounts from his wife and sister.
He said that by pleading guilty, Maguire had acknowledged he had “fallen from the high standard expected of care workers” and despite all the matters in his favour, “it is however with some regret that I must say that the public interest in maintaining confidence in care workers must be reflected in the sentence imposed by the court.”