Mental health defence invoked

A LISMORE man who spat on a nurse after he argued with his elderly mother in an East Lismore nursing home, has escaped penalty after a Lismore Local Court magistrate dismissed the assault charge against him because of his mental health problems.

John Hanstock, 42, a recovering drug addict, from McKenzie Street, previously pleaded guilty to the offence that occurred on October 18 last year in the Ozanam Village aged care facility.

Hanstock, moments before the assault, had argued with his ill mother (who was receiving palliative care) and when the nurse told him to leave he called her ‘a f.....g dog’ then spat in her face and eyes.

In an earlier court hearing, defence lawyer Rachael Thomas argued her client had a bipolar mood disorder and the matter should be dealt with under provisions of the Mental Health Act.

It was also revealed that Hanstock had been ‘topping up’ his medically regulated doses of methadone.

With the matter back before magistrate Robyn Denes on Tuesday for sentence, Ms Thomas submitted medical and psychological reports on Hanstock

She said as part of his ongoing medical care Hanstock would volunteer weekly urine samples for drug analysis.

Ms Thomas said he was now on a higher (legal) dosage of methadone and would not need to top it up.

Ms Denes said Hanstock was no stranger to the court system and previously received bonds requiring drug and alcohol supervision, as well as being dealt with under mental health provisions and also at law.

The magistrate took into account the incident had taken place at a time that was very upsetting to Hanstock (his mother’s ill-health), with Ms Thomas stating her client had also been drinking alcohol which was considered to be very unusual for him.

“He was a person who relied heavily on his mother. There was the stressful realisation she was passing away, and he is very remorseful,” Ms Thomas said.

Ms Denes said spitting on a nurse was a serious matter because nurses, doctors and ambulance officers were on ‘the front line’ and did not need to deal with such abuse.

After reading and hearing the facts put before the court Ms Denes said it was appropriate the matter be dealt with under mental health provisions.

She dismissed the matter on the condition Hanstock follow the directions of the Community Mental Health team and his doctor and provide weekly urine samples for analysis.

“No more amphetamines. No more dope. No alcohol,” Ms Denes told him.

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