A man who spat upon and was verbally abusive to a doctor in a hospital hate crime has been given a ten months jail term.
At Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday, Ciaran McKeown (23), originally from Ballymena but now with an address in Belfast, was imprisoned after previously pleading guilty to offences which occurred at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine.
McKeown had admitted two charges of assault; being disorderly at Causeway Hospital and later damaging a police cell on November 2 last year.
A prosecutor told the court: “This is being prosecuted as a hate crime”.
At around 4.30pm police were called after the defendant had to be restrained by five members of staff in he Emergency Department.
He shouted “Up the ‘Ra” and “Orange b--tards” and was spitting at staff.
The prosecuting lawyer said a doctor was called a “P-ki b--tard” and that McKeown spat at his face with the spit landing on his clothing.
McKeown then attempted to bite a hospital employee who was trying to give him an ECG but no contact was made.
When arrested the defendant continually spat in a police cell which had to be deep cleaned.
The prosecutor said McKeown had earlier gone to a pharmacy in Coleraine and because of his condition an ambulance was called.
Defence barrister Michael Smyth said the defendant’s behaviour was “disgraceful”.
He said the McKeown fell in to drug abuse at a very early age and progressed to heroin and on the day in question had gone to a pharmacy in Coleraine “seeking opiate blockers”.
The defendant had been “self-medicating” with alcohol - having drank a two-litre bottle of cider - and he had no memory of what happened, it was claimed.
Mr Smyth said McKeown was “appalled to discover what his behaviour had been” and had then offered “fulsome apologies”.
He added that the emergency services “are the front line between Mr McKeown and society”.
The defence barrister said his client had spent three and a half months in custody on remand on the charges.
Deputy District Judge Sean O’Hare said the defendant had a significant record including a previous assault on an ambulance worker.
The judge said the November hospital incident was “disgraceful and shameful” and jailed McKeown for ten months.
He told the defendant, who appeared before the court via video link from prison: “You are going to have to take some steps to try and distance yourself from your addiction problems”.