A woman who beat her stroke-victim mother by repeatedly pressing a pillow on her face has avoided being sent to prison.
Catherine Strong was instead ordered to complete three years on probation for subjecting the elderly victim to a drunken attack as she lay in bed at their home in Belfast.
The 49-year-old defendant, of Argyle Street in the city, had previously been warned she could be jailed for the attack.
She pleaded guilty to common assault on the pensioner and five subsequent assaults on PSNI officers and designated police representatives.
Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard how care workers witnessed the incident when they called at the house on January 10.
One of them looked in and saw the victim – believed to be in her late seventies – lying on the bed with her feet hanging off the edge.
A prosecution lawyer said Strong was standing over her mother holding a pillow in one hand.
She was repeatedly striking her mother on the face and upper chest with the pillow.
The assault was said to involve pressing the pillow down on the victim’s face for up to a second at a time, lifting it briefly and then repeating the action.
In total the incident witnessed lasted for less than 30 seconds, the court heard.
It was stressed that the care worker believed Strong was beating her mother, but was not trying to suffocate her.
Strong, described as pleasant when sober but abusive when drunk, had been in an emotional state in the preceding weeks.
She had repeatedly stated that her mother was dying, District Judge Fiona Bagnall was told.
During the commotion at the house she also claimed she had been trying to put a pillow behind her mother’s back.
Interviewed after her arrest, she stressed how she took on the role of carer when her mother had a stroke 12 years ago.
According to Strong the victim had been totally reliant on her.
She denied being an alcoholic, describing herself instead as a binge drinker.
On the day of the incident she had downed a litre and a half of cider, but claimed to be more tired than drunk.
Strong also insisted she had a good relationship with her mother involving the pair joking and messing around, the court heard.
Defence solicitor Denis Moloney described his client as a vulnerable woman, with serious concerns about family bereavement issues.
He said Strong and her mother had been in a co-dependent relationship.
Since the incident, however, the pensioner has been moved into care.
The defendant visits her every day and has started attending an addiction clinic, according to Mr Moloney.
He added that she is also developing a strong commitment to her local church.
On being told about the victim’s new living arrangements Judge Bagnall indicated that concerns for her vulnerability had eased.
Passing sentence, she imposed a probation order of three years in total.
Strong must also attend alcohol counselling service as part of the programme.