Defendant sat on Áras Attracta resident as ‘bit of fun’

One of the Áras Attracta staff charged with assaulting a resident was a health care assistant for two years before gaining a qualification in the field.

Christina Delaney, aged 35, of Seefinn, Lissatava, Hollymount, Co Mayo, said she was trying to keep the resident with severe intellectual disabilities safe when she sat on her.

Castlebar District Court heard Ms Delaney had worked in the canteen of Áras Attracta from 2003-2006 before she was promoted to health care assistant. She gained a FETAC level 5 qualification in 2008.

The cases against three Áras Attracta staff charged with assaulting the same resident, Ms A, in November 2014, were heard yesterday. Another two defendants will come before the court today.

Clinical nurse manager Pat McLoughlin, aged 56, of Lalibela, Mayfield, Claremorris, told the court he sat on Ms A as a “bit of fun”.

Anna Ywunong Botsimbo, aged 34, of 8 Low Park Avenue, Charlestown, a care assistant employed through an agency, admitted pulling Ms A’s hood was not acceptable but said it was the “way I was shown to do it by the staff in Bungalow 3”.

The court heard on three occasions in 2014, Ms A caused injury to herself and was treated for a detached retina. Surgeons warned staff if there was further injury to her eye, she could lose her sight.

Ms Delaney told the court the resident showed a lot of challenging signs in the evenings, and she was “trying to keep her in a safe zone ([n her favourite chair] so she would be relaxed”.

Mr McLoughlin said he was having “a bit of playful interaction” with Ms A after she hit him off camera, and thought he would get to the resident’s personal chair before her. “In the spur of the moment, I sat down partially on her and partially on the side of the chair.”

Defence for Ms Botsimbo, who has a master’s degree in psychology from her native Poland along with training in adult protection, brain injury, manual handling, and a health care assistance course, said the defendant did not have mandatory MAPA (of Actual or Potential Aggression) training to work in Bungalow 3.

Acting programme director at Áras, Harry Kenny, said the “ultimate responsibility to ensure staff were trained was with the agency, not the HSE”.

He said MAPA training was not mandatory but was highly recommended for the challenging behavioural bungalows, and the HSE had made the agency aware that staff was expected to have a range of training. The HSE could provide the training on site but the agency needed to indicate its go ahead, he said.

Clinical nurse specialist Martin Maguire said he wanted every person in Bungalow 3 to be MAPA trained and raised his concerns in an email. He said the actions of all three defendants were “not acceptable”.

The court heard Ms A moved to a new environment in December 2014 and now lives alone. Mr Maguire said he was not aware of any further injurious behaviour since the move.

Counsel for Ms Delaney and Mr McLoughlin argued the State had fallen short in proving their clients’ guilty of assault.

Meanwhile, Mr Flynn for Ms Botsimbo sought a direction for a dismissal. He said her actions did not constitute assault and the prosecuting garda had not put the charge to her in interview.

Judge Mary Devins has reserved judgment in the cases against Ms Delaney and Mr McLoughlin, and adjourned Ms Botsimbo’s case to consider the application for dismissal.

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