Friday 24 November 2017

Family relief at four-month sentence for assault nurse

Áras Attracta staff members Pat McLoughlin, who is appealing his sentence for assault. Photo: Keith Heneghan
Áras Attracta staff members Pat McLoughlin, who is appealing his sentence for assault. Photo: Keith Heneghan
Joan Gill, who was ordered to pay €1,500 into the accounts of two patients she admitted assaulting. Photo: Keith Heneghan
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

The family of a vulnerable woman who was assaulted by a number of care workers at the Áras Attracta care home have told of their relief after the staff were convicted yesterday.

The family of Miss A, a severely autistic woman who was sat on by two members of staff and dragged across the floor by another, said they were "relieved" that justice had been served.

"We attended court every day and I can't explain our delight and relief when the judge found they were guilty. We had to watch some very upsetting images of what happened to our sister but all we ever wanted was these people to be held accountable," said a sister of Miss A.

Pat McLoughlin (56), of Lalibela, Mayfield,Claremorris, Co Mayo, was convicted of assaulting Miss A. He was sentenced to four months in prison at Ballina District Court. He had sat on Miss A but claimed his actions were "playful interaction" and "a bit of fun".

Four of his colleagues avoided custodial sentences and will be assessed for community service. All of the defendants were ordered to pay compensation to the residents they assaulted.

The family said they were relieved Mr McLaughlin was given a custodial sentence. "It was up to him to set an example, but he treated her so badly," she added. Miss A remains in Áras Attracta but has been moved to a new bungalow where her family say she is thriving.

Judge Mary Devins said there had been a "hint of cruelty" in Mr McLoughlin's actions to Miss A, describing them as "degrading".

In directing a custodial sentence for Mr McLoughlin, Judge Devins pointed to his professional training, his seniority and position of authority and that fact that he was an exemplar who set the standard in the facility in arriving at her decision.

She also ordered Mr McLoughlin to pay €1,000 to Miss A's personal fund to be used on things Miss A enjoys.

Judge Devins said Mr McLoughlin's actions "dehumanised this lady", ordering that the money should be used on something that gives Miss A enjoyment. However, she stressed the money should not be used on things that should be provided by the HSE.

Counsel for Mr McLoughlin, Gearoid Geraghty immediately lodged an appeal on behalf of his client.

Judge Devins also sentenced four other staff members yesterday, three of whom had pleaded not guilty to the assault charge.

Christina Delaney (35), Seefinn, Lissatava, Hollymount, Co Mayo; Joan Walsh (42), Carrowilkeen, Curry, Co Sligo; and Kathleen King (56), Knockshanvally Straide, Foxford, Co Mayo, were ordered to pay €600 compensation to their victims' personal fund and will be assessed for 120 hours of community service in lieu of a three-month prison sentence.

A fifth member of staff, Joan Gill (63), of Dublin Road, Swinford, had pleaded guilty to three counts of assaulting two residents.

She also avoided a custodial sentence and will be assessed for 240 hours of community service in place of a four-month prison sentence.

She was ordered to pay €1,000 into the personal account of Miss A and €500 into the account of Miss B.

The case will return to court next month to hear if the defendants are suitable for community service.

Irish Independent

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