The case was heard at Newry Magistrates' Court.
A MAYOBRIDGE man who made hoax 999 calls to the ambulance service before proceeding to verbally abuse hospital workers has had his sentencing deferred.
John Paul Fegan, 41, of Owen Roe, was convicted of two counts of improper use of public communications and disorderly behaviour at Newry Magistrates' Court.
Police were informed on 26 January of last year about a series of hoax 999 calls being made to the ambulance service from a number in Mayobridge.
On arrival at the emergency department, police were met by a paramedic who stated that when he initially attended the call at 3:45pm and spoke to the defendant at the address, he said he did not call for an ambulance.
While still outside the property, a second call came in, this time from somebody claiming to be the defendant’s brother but originating from the same number as the initial call. When asked again, the defendant denied calling.
Police tried to obtain access to the defendant’s home address by knocking on the door and calling out but there was no answer. The following day, a request was submitted to the Ambulance Service for transcripts of the two calls and audio recordings were provided to police.
The defendant was interviewed in relation to the matter, confirming that the number used belonged to him and that he in fact did ring the Ambulance Service. He stated, however, that he kept passing out and having mini seizures.
Fegan told police his brother had made one of the calls but that he left when the Ambulance arrived.
The court also heard that at approximately 5.30pm on 7 December, police were tasked to a report of an intoxicated and aggressive visitor to Craigavon Area Hospital.
He had reportedly torn an emergency pull cord from a public toilet and tried to hang himself with it. Officers attended the scene and found staff had got the situation under control by removing the cord and isolating Fegan in the main foyer of the hospital.
He was admitted to hospital and subsequently discharged by the medical team, at which point the defendant directed verbal abuse and foul language towards one of the doctors. The behaviour was observed by the many people who were present awaiting treatment and he was ultimately arrested in relation to disorderly behaviour.
During interview, he stated he couldn’t remember most of his behaviour, adding that it was a blur. He said that he had taken alcohol on board but was not drunk.
A defence counsel for Fegan told the court he is a plasterer by trade but has not worked for a period of time due to long standing issues with alcohol and mental health.
“He has now acquired Housing Executive accommodation and is caring for his father who has multiple sclerosis, so he’s trying to get himself settled.
“These are offences that would obviously attract an immediate custodial sentence, but I wonder if Your Worship felt he might benefit from some sort of statutory supervision in terms of probation,” they continued.
Addressing the defendant, District Judge Eamon King said: “The problem really here is that you have been a frequent attender at this court.
“The last entry on your record, 8 September, 2021, you got six months imprisonment and that was quite simply because the court had lost patience with you,” he added.
“Society expects the court to take action against people who present themselves as persistent offenders and who also, in this case, offend in situations around primary care.”
Judge King continued: “I sit and I watch the television and I hear somebody saying their 98-year-old father died because they couldn’t get an ambulance. Ambulances are effectively running around the length of the country because of nuisance calls from people like you.
“And then, what do you do when you are taken in to be cared for? You’re rude to the doctors and nurses who are trying to treat you.
“If I’m sitting there with my six month old baby in A&E looking for treatment and I have to witness that type of conduct or I’m a doctor, looking out and seeing queues of 30-40 patients all looking for care, and you arrive, insulting the doctors and abusing the nurses? There’s only one sentence that any court can impose, which is prison right away.”
Judge King told the court he would defer sentencing on the basis the defendant has “settled” and is caring for an elderly parent, adding there is “no way the court will tolerate conduct which interferes with scarce resources."
“But be under no doubt, if you are back to the attention of the police and back in front of me, the prison sentence that I’m going to impose, will be imposed. I am told that police officers spend 40 per cent of their time in A&E departments, which is a downright disgrace.”
Fegan was sentenced to five months in prison in respect of each of the disorderly behaviour and improper use of public communications charges, with sentencing deferred until 21 December.