Hospital assault man avoids jail but must write apology letter

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A man who assaulted hospital staff escaped jail yesterday but was ordered to pay £300 compensation to his victim and write an apology letter.

Deferring the case for a year, District Judge Mark Hamill warned 21-year-old Darren Laverty that if he didn’t write the letters to the security guard and management of the Ulster Hospital or “if there’s £299, you will go to prison.”

“It’s highly unusual that somebody escapes custody for behaving like this in a hospital,” said the judge but added that “the pressure that this court is under” comes from the Crown Court where Laverty had received probation and community service last month.

“The suggestion to me is that I shouldn’t send him to prison because that will wreck the community disposal,” he told Newtownards Magistrates Court, “somebody reporting on this case could say this is what the judge was forced into.”

Laverty, from the Curran Road in Larne, had earlier pleaded guilty to offences of common assault against a hospital security guard, using disorderly behaviour in the Ulster Hospital and possessing class B cannabis on 21 March this year.

A prosecuting lawyer told the court how Laverty was at the emergency department of the Ulster Hospital for treatment when he “became aggressive,” shouted and swore at medical staff and then threatened to throw a chair at a security guard.

Following through on his threat, Laverty threw water at the guard and then “launched a chair at him,” striking him and “causing redness.”

“He showed no remorse at all in the hospital,” said the lawyer adding that when he was arrested cops found a small amount of cannabis.

When he was interviewed later, Laverty made full admissions but claimed he had no memory of the incident.

Defence solicitor Joe Mulholland said Laverty was “ashamed of his actions as well he should be” but submitted that he had “grabbed the opportunity” handed to him when the Crown Court sentencing was deferred for six months.

That deferral had been in May, two months after the hospital incident, said the lawyer claiming that since then, Laverty had left his drink and drug habits behind.

Deferring the case to 7 December next year, Judge Hamill told Laverty that if he failed to pay the compensation to his victim, didn’t write the letters of apology or reoffended in that time,” you will go to prison...I don’t care about the enhanced combination order.”

“If that is all complied with, I will give you a four month prison sentence suspended for three years,” the judge concluded.