A care assistant at an Armagh care home who grabbed an elderly amputee resident and dragged him backwards has been handed a suspended prison sentence.
Aine McCreesh, of Dobbin Hill Road, appeared for sentencing before Armagh Magistrates’ Court, sitting at Newry Courthouse on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old was charged with ill treating or neglecting a patient at Hamilton Court Care Home on July 4, last year.
The defendant, who has since been dismissed from her role, maintains her innocence, with defence counsel Patrick Taylor telling the court that she plans to appeal her conviction.
During her contest hearing last month two fellow care assistants broke down in tears as they recounted the incident.
McCreesh had been working a night shift at the facility and was in charge of 20 residents.
She had been sitting in the day room of the facility just before 3am with her two colleagues when the elderly wheelchair-bound gentleman, whom the court heard often shuffles into the corridor on his bottom, appeared at the door.
In her evidence, the first care assistant recalled how the injured party had been laughing and “that’s how you knew he was in good form”.
“Aine got up and said ‘to f**k with this, I am not looking at him all night’. I couldn’t believe what she did after. She went to the back of him and got him under the arms and pulled him back.
“She put her two arms underneath him and dragged him about two or three feet. She then came in and closed the door.
“Me and (my colleague) looked at each other in shock. I just couldn’t believe it, I just hoped he was OK.”
Following the incident, the court was told McCreesh went outside for a smoke, while the other care assistants went and got the injured party – who was in the bathroom at this stage – into bed.
At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Mr Taylor told the court that McCreesh, who has worked in a care environment since the age of 17, had had her life “destroyed” by the incident.
Describing the situation as “desperately unfortunate”, Mr Taylor added: “She has lost a job that she loved and one that she is unlikely to be able to return to.”
He concluded his plea of mitigation by asking the judge to “temper justice with mercy” given the effect that the incident has had on the defendant’s employment and mental health.
District Judge Anne Marshall, on passing sentence, noted that “my hands are tied”, given that the defendant continued to maintain her innocence.
District Judge Marshall described the evidence given by the two colleagues as “clear, credible and compelling”, adding that the incident had a number of aggravating features, including the fact that she contested the charge and the “vulnerability of the injured party”.
She commented: “It does seem to be an isolated incident in a long career as a carer, a career that she now has lost as a result of this incident….
“Whilst that has had an impact on her and her health, I have no doubt that the incident also impacted on the injured party. Also, I saw the impact on the two colleagues who were very upset at seeing the resident treated on the night in question in the way that he was.”
The judge imposed a sentence of three months in custody, suspended for one year, and fixed bail for appeal at £500, as the defendant planned to contest the charge.
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