A man who threw a chair at a doctor at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine and told him to “go back to his own country” has been given a three months jail sentence.
Darryl Freeman (27), of Tullans Park, Coleraine, pleaded guilty to a charge of common assault arising out of an incident on June 22 this year. A prosecutor said it was a “hate crime”.
On the afternoon of June 22, the prosecuting lawyer said, police received a report from a doctor at the Causeway Hospital that he had been engaging with a patient at the outpatients department when the defendant became aggressive and picked up a chair and threw it at him but it missed.
Freeman shouted racist remarks telling the doctor to “go back to his own country” and that he “wasn’t wanted here,” putting the medic in fear during the incident.
The prosecutor said the defendant had not been happy with the amount of Diazepam he was getting and had torn a prescription up. Defence solicitor Stewart Ballentine told Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday the defendant wished to apologise for his actions.
The lawyer said Freeman suffered from mental health issues and his client had told him to stress to the court “that he is not in any way racist and holds no racist views”. Mr Ballentine said his client said he had been under “considerable pressure” at the time of the incident, having difficulty sleeping, and when his medication was reduced he felt he “couldn’t cope”.
The solicitor accepted it must have been a frightening experience for the doctor but said, thankfully, no injuries were inflicted. Jailing unemployed Freeman for three months, District Judge Peter King said: “We have appalling behaviour in a NHS consultation followed up by racist abuse. The court has to send out a very strong message that this sort of behaviour can never be acceptable”.
He told Freeman the doctor had been trying to assist him and it was an “appalling racist attack on a health service professional”. The judge said the racist aspect of the case meant he had increased the sentence from two months to three months.
The defendant was released on his own bail of £500 pending appeal.
Releasing Freeman, Judge King said he was not to attend any health service facility unless in a medical emergency or by way of appointment.
“Any doctor’s surgery will require advance notice of this man attending,” said the judge.