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Officer required HIV test and hospital treatment after being bitten by drunk woman, court told

Limerick native given suspended sentence on condition she 'never darken the door of the six counties again'

Craigavon Emergency Department

A woman from Limerick has been told “never darken the door of the six counties again” after being given a suspended sentence for several assaults carried out five years ago.

Court heard, in one of the cases, the 32-year-old  bit the arm of a female police officer, breaking the skin and leaving her having to be tested for HIV.

Joanne Molloy, 32, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and two counts of assault on police at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

Court heard that on July 24, 2013, at around 8.25am, police were signalled down by a male and a female on Edward Street, Lurgan.

Officers spoke to the female who made an allegation that she had been approached by another woman who stole her phone.

During this altercation, the perpetrator pulled at her hair and scratched her face.

The defendant, who matched the description given to police, was stopped nearby and arrested.

When cautioned by officers she stated that she had done nothing wrong.

Whilst in Lurgan Custody Suite, Molloy became verbally aggressive and lunged at an officer, swinging her right arm at them.

As police restrained the defendant she began kicking out to get free, hitting more officers.

Court heard Molloy bit the right arm of a female officer, breaking the skin and drawing blood.

This officer had to be taken to Craigavon Area Hospital for treatment. She had broken skin, a circular red mark and bruising.

Court heard two other officers were also bitten, one on the arm and another on the thumb, as they attempted to restrain the defendant.

When interviewed, Molloy made no admissions stating she had been drunk at the time and could not remember the circumstances of her arrest.

Defence barrister Damien Halloran informed the court that the defendant had been convicted in her absence and had absconded to her native Limerick city.

Court heard Molloy had one previous offence of an assault on a garda in Shannon, County Clare.

Mr Halloran stated: “She has a limited record in this jurisdiction and a limited record in the Republic of Ireland.

“For the other offence, she was sentenced to 12 months probation. She has nothing pending and that was her last appearance before any court.”

He commented: “This conviction was the catalyst for Ms Molloy to get her life back on track; she has had no alcohol in five-and-a-half years.”

It was revealed Molloy returned to Limerick with her two children but knew she would “eventually have to face the music”.

Mr Halloran stated: “She works as a dental nurse in Limerick and has done so for some time. She really has turned her life around.”

He commented: “The picture painted of Ms Molloy in 2013 is very different than the one that stands before this court today.”

Court heard that the defendant’s father had passed away and was due to be buried on Thursday morning.

Mr Halloran stated: “This is a deeply distressing time for Ms Molloy and she just wants to return to Limerick to bury her father.”

District Judge Bernie Kelly said: “In the middle of this you had no consideration of the permanency of the damage to at least one of these officers and a female officer to boot.

“All because she was in a drunken drug filled state she didn’t care.”

She stated: “This woman would have to be HIV tested, that means, for one, her life insurance would be affected but also if she had a child she would have the fear that it is born HIV positive.

“There is also a higher possibility as the person she was bitten by was a drug user. I understand it depends on how the drugs are administered.”

District Judge Kelly told the defendant: “I am going to sentence you to four months in prison and on the basis that you never darken the door of the six counties again I will suspend that for a period of two years.”

She added that no order of compensation was being made as she did not feel Molloy could pay a sum which would be deemed adequate.

Kat Smithson, Director of Policy and Campaigns at NAT (National AIDS Trust) said: “No one should be attacked while serving their community, however throwing myths about HIV-risk into the mix only makes a bad situation worse for frontline workers who have been assaulted, causing them unnecessary stress and worry.

“HIV is not passed on through biting and there is no need to test for HIV because of being bitten.

“NAT is also concerned about further comments made regarding the potential impact of HIV which were outdated and misguided. Remarks that the victim would suffer fear of passing on HIV to future children are potentially very damaging.

“Thanks to the availability of fantastic treatment, women living with HIV in the UK can have children without there being a risk of passing HIV on to their baby – and indeed hundreds of women every year do just that. It is also not the case that merely testing for HIV would impact someone’s life insurance – this is a myth that risks deterring people from testing for HIV.

“Ultimately, however condemnable this attack was, it is a great shame to see misinformation that is so very far off the mark like this being put forward as fact in a court of law.”

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