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Jail sentence for man who assaulted prison officers after being told he needed hospital stay

Defence said: 'The professionals believed that he needed to stay at which point he threw the head up'

Police PSNI Emergency Craigavon Hospital

A Belfast man who assaulted three prison officers who had escorted him to Craigavon Area Hospital after he was informed he would be required to stay has been handed a three month prison sentence.

The 25-year-old’s barrister told court that at the time of the offence his client had been released on compassionate bail to see his grandmother, who was dying of COPD.

Kurtis Johnston, of Mount Vernon Park, pleaded guilty to three counts of assault on a prison officer and disorderly behaviour at Craigavon Magistrates’ on Friday, via videolink from Maghaberry.

Prosecution outlined that on December 12, of 2019, police were called to Craigavon Area Hospital after reports that three prison officers had been assaulted.

Upon arrival, officers spoke to the injured parties who stated the defendant, a sentence prisoner, had assaulted them after being informed he was required to stay in hospital for 24 hours.

The first prison officer sustained bruising on an arm from being grabbed and had been bitten on the right elbow, a second had redness to the side of his face due to a blow, whilst the third suffered no injury but had received kicks to the ribs.

Johnston had also attempted to spit at the officers but his face was forced away preventing him from doing so.

The defendant was cautioned for the assaults and for disorderly behaviour; this was in relation to him shouting and swearing in the hospital about being required to stay.

Defence barrister Damien Halloran stated: “I ask that he is given credit for his guilty plea. He had been released on compassionate bail to see his grandmother, who was dying of COPD, at her home.

“He became extremely distressed and the prison officers, who had been accompanying him, took him to the hospital in relation to his mental health. The professionals believed that he needed to stay at which point he threw the head up.”

Mr Halloran said it was accepted that the offences crossed the custody threshold but asked that any sentence did not interfere with his client’s release date of December 14.

District Judge Bernie Kelly commented that there was little point in exploring a community disposal due to Johnston’s prisoner status and sentenced him to three months in prison, which was to run concurrently with his current sentence.

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