SDLP MLA John Dallat has called for a review of sentences handed out by the courts to people he claims make life “a living hell” for hospital staff working in accident and emergency departments.
The East Londonderry MLA made the appeal after two defendants charged with disorderly behaviour at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine were each given five-month suspended sentences.
“The zero tolerance policy has become a mockery if people know they will not be going to jail for it,” he said.
“A suspended sentence is absolutely meaningless to people like that. I intend to raise the issue with Justice Minister David Ford.”
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said “sentencing in an individual case is a matter for the independent judiciary based on the particular facts and circumstances surrounding the case”.
He added: “In terms of legislation, when tried summarily, both common assault and disorderly behaviour carry a maximum custodial penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment, and when tried on indictment common assault carries a maximum custodial penalty of up to two years in prison.”
DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots said he remained “committed to the policy of zero tolerance, which each health and social care trust has responsibility for at senior director level”.