Friday 30 September 2016

Woman who assaulted Aras Attracta patients feels like 'demon' in her own community, court hears

Tom Shiel, Castlebar

Published 15/01/2016 | 13:14

Joan Gill
Joan Gill

A worker in a care home who assaulted residents by roughly treating them now feels like “a demon” in her community, a court heard today.

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Brendan McDonagh, counsel, told a District Court sitting in Castlebar, that Joan Gill (62), Dublin Road, Swinford, Co. Mayo, has effectively been “a prisoner in her own home” since film footage covertly filmed by RTE's Investigations Unit was screened by the national broadcaster last year.

In the footage Mrs. Gill, now retired, is shown ill-treating two intellectually disabled residents at the HSE run centre.

One of her victims, identified as 'Miss A', who is intellectually disabled, is shown on video being dragged from her chair across the floor in what is known as Bungalow 3 of the ten-acre Aras complex.

Mrs. Gill pleaded guilty to three counts of assault in the sittingroom area of Bungalow 3 on various dates in November 2014.

Detective Sergeant Gerry Lee told today's court that the defendant co-operated fully with the Garda investigation and accepted fully on viewing the CCTV footage that what she had done was wrong and if presented with the same situation again she would take a different course of action.

Mr. McDonagh said his client was apologetic, embarrassed and shamed by what had happened.

“'She feels like a pariah in her own community”, counsel said. ”As a result of looking at the (film) clips she feels horrified and incredibly ashamed”.

He added that since the RTE programme Ms. Gill has stopped walking downtown in Swinford and had taken early retirement.

While his client's actions had been reckless, cocunsel continued, she had never intended to do any harm.

Mr. McDonagh went on to explain that Mrs. Gill, who had been working in Aras Attracta for 25 years, had enjoyed an ublemished career up to the incidents.

Judge Mary Devins will consider the penalties to be imposed on Mrs. Gill at a district court sitting in Ballina on February 23.

On that date, Judge Devins is to deliver a verdict against other Aras Attracta care workers who have pleaded not guilty to single charges of assault against residents.

They are: Patrick McLoughlin (56), Mayfield, Claremorris, Co.Mayo, Christina Delaney (35), Seefin, Lissatava, Hollymount, Claremorris, Co. Mayo, Joan Walsh (42), Carrowilkeen, Curry, Co. Sligo, and Kathleen King (56), Knockshanbally, Straide, Foxford, Co. Mayo.,

The judge earlier excused herself from a case involving a fifth defendant, Anna Ywunong Botsimbo (34), Lowpark Avenue, Charlestown, Ms. Botsimbo's case will now be tried by a different Judge.

The video evidence on which the State case against all the defendants is based was filmed covertly by RTE following contacts by a number of 'whistleblowers' – three in total – who contacted the station's Investigative Unit to express concerns over aspects of patient care at the facility.

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