Nurse spat on during assault

AN ANGRY John Hanstock argued with his ill mother in an East Lismore nursing home and when a care nurse intervened he called her ‘a f.....g dog’ then spat in her face and eyes.

Hanstock, 42, a recovering drug addict from McKenzie Street, pleaded guilty in Lismore Local Court to assaulting the nurse at 4.45pm on October 18 last year in the Ozanam Villa aged care facility.

Defence lawyer Rachael Thomas said it would have been an horrific experience for the nurse to be assaulted like that after telling Hanstock to leave because of the argument with his elderly mother who was receiving palliative care.

Ms Thomas said her client’s mother survived only a few more weeks after the incident.

She claimed Hanstock had a bipolar mood disorder and the attack on the nurse was not premeditated but ‘seems to have been on impulse’. She claimed he also suffered episodes of severe depression followed by bouts of mania.

“His actions with regard to his lack of self-control relates to what he is suffering,” Ms Thomas said, referring to a medical report.

“He says he does not usually drink alcohol but was drinking that day.”

Magistrate Robyn Denes (consulting a Probation and Parole report) replied that instead Hanstock usually ‘tops up’ (his prescription methadone) with ‘street’ methadone.

Police facts state Hanstock was yelling and swearing at his elderly mother when the nurse tried to calm him down. When he again erupted the nurse told him to leave.

“I will give you something to ring the police about you f.....g dog,” he said, then spat in her face.

He later told police he had been drinking and was on methadone.

Ms Thomas in an application to have the matter dealt with under mental health provisions, said he was now compliant with his treatment and willing to provide urine samples for drug screening.

She said he was not suitable to attend detox because his methadone dosage was too high but was willing to attend a rehabilitation program.

When the magistrate said it was not the most serious of assaults, police prosecutor Sgt Richard McDonald responded saying ‘except if you are a nurse’.

“Nurses are in a high risk group and that should be brought home,” he said.

Sgt McDonald said as there was no treatment plan before the court, the defence Section 32 (mental health) application should be dismissed.

Ms Denes said she did not believe it was his underlying health issue that caused Hanstock to react that day but because he had been drunk and angry.

“If I get a treatment plan I want to know if he is drinking, taking other drugs or topping up his methadone,” Ms Denes said.

She then adjourned the matter to April 13 for a medical/psychological report to be done.

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