‘Zero tolerance’ for A&E pests

John Dallat MLA.
John Dallat MLA.

AN SDLP Assembly member has called for a review of sentences handed out by the courts to people who make life a living hell for hospital staff working in Accident and Emergency departments of hospitals.

John Dallat has made the call after two defendants charged with disorderly behaviour at the Causeway Hospital, Coleraine were each given five month suspended jail sentences.

In one case David Purdy of Portrush pleaded guilty to disorderly behaviour, indecent behaviour, criminal damage and assault on police when being treated at the A&E Department.

Mr Dallat said: “This man’s behaviour was so outrageous that that the room he was being treated in had to be closed down and a deep clean of it performed by staff after he threw urine around the triage room.

In a second separate case Darren Stephenson of Carrickfergus lashed out at paramedics and spat at staff and other people in the hospital. He also attempted to bite staff and kicked police officers who were sent for.

Mr Dallat added: “I am appalled at the behaviour of these two individuals and seriously question why they were not given custodial sentences for their outrageous behaviour.

“I will certainly raise both cases with the Minister for Justice because I believe the ‘zero tolerance’ rule at hospitals must be respected and those who break it need to understand the seriousness of their actions.

“Suspended sentences are meaningless to individuals who throw urine over hospital equipment, assault staff, expose themselves and make life a living hell for everyone who work in these departments.”

The SDLP member described Causeway Hospital as “a sanctuary for people in need of medical help.”

“Local people are fighting for the retention of the Accident and Emergency Department and hold its staff in the highest esteem,” said Mr Dallat.

“They share my anger that anyone should have been involved in this type of outrageous behaviour and get off with suspended sentences. A zero tolerance rule must be backed by the knowledge that those who disregard it go to jail.”