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Last Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Doctor rejects knifeman judgement
The attack happened at the Ulster Hospital
The attack happened at the Ulster Hospital on New Year's Day
A senior doctor has criticised a judge's reasoning for not jailing a man who held a junior doctor at knifepoint.

The magistrate had said the case of ex-soldier David Hague, of Greyabbey, who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, was a "one-off".

He received a year's probation for threatening to kill the woman at the Ulster Hospital, in Dundonald, in 2005.

Brian Patterson, of the BMA, said if Hague was ill he should have been treated and not prosecuted.

Mr Patterson, who is the chairman of the British Medical Association's Northern Ireland Council, said there was an "attempt to justify the unjustifiable".

"While we sympathise with a patient who has an illness, patients' illnesses do not excuse them from being responsible in the law," he told the BBC's Nolan show.

"If this person was so distressed by their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder why were they taken to court, why were they not given treatment?

"This was taken to court, there was no plea of diminished responsibility, therefore the medical defence is obviously something that has been used as an excuse."

There are lots of people in Northern Ireland walking around with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there are lots of people with depression
Brian Patterson

He said if Hague had a mental illness which diminished his responsibility then "he had been a victim and should not have been taken to court".

"There are lots of people in Northern Ireland walking around with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there are lots of people with depression," he said.

"Is it then legitimate for those people to hold a doctor with a knife to their throat and threaten to kill them?"

The comments come a day after the Northern Ireland Court Service released a statement from the resident magistrate, Mark Hamill, in which he said the case was a "one-off".

Hague was sentenced on 8 September and Mr Hamill said it had been an "extremely difficult sentencing exercise" relating to the defendant, who also suffers from depression.

Mr Hamill said Hague had threatened to kill the doctor unless she "gave him a lethal injection".

'Bizarre case'

"Normally I find sentencing in cases of assault on hospital staff extremely simple," he said.

"I have, in the past, imposed severe custodial sentences and am on record as saying that such sentences are inevitable unless there is a persuasive medical background relating to the mental health of the perpetrator.

"In this bizarre case, where the defendant was, in effect, attempting to commit suicide, there is an unusual and persuasive medical background."

Mr Hamill said that Hague had a clear record, had pleaded guilty, and the maximum sentence he could give was 12 months.

He said at the forefront of his mind was the "terrible ordeal" suffered by the doctor.

"I also make it clear that sentencing in this case is a one-off and that attacks on hospital staff will be met with lengthy sentences of immediate imprisonment, subject to the proviso I have referred to earlier," he said.

Knifeman sentence 'too lenient'
11 Oct 06 |  Northern Ireland
Man charged with attack on doctor
02 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland

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