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Female prison officer beaten unconscious and bitten in jail cell attack

A FEMALE prison officer who was beaten unconscious by a violent female inmate said she would not have survived the assault were it not for her colleagues.

Sarah Sinnott (21), who has a history of assaulting prison officers, was sentenced to a year's imprisonment after she viciously attacked three prison staff at Limerick Prison.

Sinnott, with an address at The Simon Community, Cork, has been in the care of social services, mental health services and the prison services for the last 20 years.

Limerick Circuit Criminal Court heard yesterday that on April 6, 2011, Sinnott was breaking up furniture in her cell.

A number of prison officers entered her cell and she became very violent – going for two female officers, Patricia Coleman and Samantha Conway.

Judge Carroll Moran was told that she got a grip of Ms Coleman's hair and pulled her head right into her chest.

The officer was unable to breathe and felt herself beginning to choke. Sinnott then bit hard into Ms Coleman's arm. She also bit Ms Conway who was attempting to loosen the inmate's grip on Ms Coleman.

Assistant chief officer Mick Kane was kicked in the hand by the prisoner during the struggle.

Ms Coleman lost consciousness as she struggled to breathe and was dragged from the cell by her colleagues. Her shirt was opened and she had to put her head out a window to breathe.

Both female officers received blood tests and Ms Conway was given a tetanus injection.

Sinnott pleaded guilty to three charges of assault causing harm to the three prison officers. At the time of the offence, she was on remand awaiting sentence for assaulting two other prison officers in the women's Dochas Centre in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin.

Ms Coleman wept as she read a victim impact statement. "I received numerous injuries to my back and neck," she said.

"I was bitten on the left arm, my hair was pulled out of its roots and at some point during the assault, I became unconscious. If it wasn't for the quick actions of my colleagues, I believe I would not have survived.

Emotional

"Since this assault, I have been under pressure, financially, mentally and physically. I can no longer return to work due to the constant pain and my emotional state," Ms Coleman said.

Ms Conway testified how she has been "emotionally distressed and anxious" since her assault.

Gda Ivan Hannify said Sinnott had a horrific upbringing and made full admissions.

Judge Moran said a psychiatric report showed that Sinnott does not have any mental illness, but is emotionally unstable and has a personality disorder. He said she had poor social skills and cannot live alone independently.

Judge Moran said prison officers must be protected by the courts as they work in inherently dangerous positions. He imposed a three year prison sentence with two years suspended which was backdated to January 25 last.

Irish Independent