Sunday 22 September 2019

Care-worker who sexually assaulted nursing-home patient and put video on Facebook jailed

Facebook. Photo: Stock
Facebook. Photo: Stock

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A care-worker who sexually assaulted two vulnerable residents in a care home, and "mistakenly" put a video of one of the assaults on Facebook, has been sent to jail after the Court of Appeal found his suspended sentence to be too lenient.

Peter Hilliard (54), of Bolbrook Grove, Tallaght, in Dublin, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of sexual assault at a nursing home in Dublin between February 2013 and June 2016.

The offending came to light in June 2016 when a colleague of Hilliard's saw a Facebook video of Hilliard sexually assaulting an elderly resident.

He was given an 18 month suspended sentence by Judge Karen O’Connor on October 24, 2017.

However, Hilliard was jailed for 12 months today after the Court of Appeal found his sentence “unduly lenient”.

Giving judgment in the three-judge Court, Mr Justice John Hedigan said the victims were both patients in a nursing home where Hilliard worked. Both were suffering from profound intellectual disabilities when they were assaulted. One, a woman with advanced dementia was described as “not living in the present” and the other, someone who “wouldn’t know what was going on”.

In one instance Hilliard recorded the assault with a mobile phone and uploaded the video to Facebook which was immediately investigated. He claimed he had had only two or three hours of sleep when he “mistakenly” uploaded it.

The sentencing judge noted that the offences lacked violence and the victims suffered no psychological harm.

Mr Justice Hedigan said the most striking characteristic of the offence was the egregious breach of trust. He said it was not known what level of comprehension, if any, the women had of the indignities infected upon them.

He said the gradual loss of a loved one to dementia was enough for the women’s families without having this shocking event inflicted upon them.

Mr Justice Hedigan said the sentencing judge was clearly in error when he characterised the assaults as minor. He said it required intervention by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Justice Hedigan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, resentenced Hilliard to 18 months imprisonment with the final six months suspended.

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