Jailed for assault and damage in hospital

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

A man with 148 previous convictions who assaulted prison officers and caused damage in Altnagelvin Hospital has been jailed for four years.

John Paul Harkin, whose address was given on court papers as c/o Maghaberry, pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault, criminal damage and making a threat to kill on February 14, last year.

He also admitted hijacking a Domino’s delivery vehicle in December, 2013 and taking a motor vehicle without authority and handling property stolen in the Republic of Ireland in August, 2014.

Derry Crown Court heard the 36-year-old was taken to hospital from the courthouse after he began complaining of severe chest pains.

He was accompanied to the Accident and Emergency department of Altnagelin Hospital by three prison officers and placed into a cubicle.

Harkin asked to use the bathroom and a short time later was observed walking away from the prison officers and into another cubicle.

The court heard an elderly female patient was present in this cubicle.

The prison officers followed the defendant, who armed himself with a crutch and placed the bed between himself and the officers.

The elderly patient was escorted out of the cubicle and Harkin began swinging the crutch at the prison officers.

He also threatened to stab them with a needle.

Harkin then pushed the hospital bed over and caused damage to an oxygen cylinder and other pieces of hospital equipment.

He used a light fitting to strike out at prison officers, causing a puncture wound to the arm or one of them and spat in the face of another.

The defendant then threw the light fitting and struck a hospital porter on the head with it.

Following his arrest, the defendant threatened to shoot a police officer and to ‘spit on him and give him hepatitis’.

Jailing Harkin, Judge Philip Babington said this is a ‘very serious case in which a defendant with a very lengthy criminal record has offended on three particular dates in ways which are very concerning to society.’

He added that the 36-year-old’s offending ‘has affected innocent law abiding members of the community who do not deserve to be treated in this way’.

Judge Babington imposed a determinate sentence of four years, half of which will be spent in custody.