Woman accused of brandishing knife in Belfast hospital is granted bail

Karen O'Brien outside Laganside Courts in Belfast. Pic: Presseye
Karen O'Brien outside Laganside Courts in Belfast. Pic: Presseye
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A woman allegedly brandished a knife after being refused a cigarette at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital, the High Court heard today.

Karen O'Brien, 51, is accused of producing the five-inch blade from her bag and swinging it close to the chest of a man sitting beside her.

O'Brien, of Lenadoon Avenue in the city, claims she had been subjected to inappropriate and suggestive comments, a judge was told.

She was granted bail on charges of common assault and possessing a bladed article over the incident on July 29.

Police were called to the hospital after security staff disarmed her, according to the prosecution.

The alleged victim claimed he had been sitting between O'Brien and another unknown man from whom she requested a cigarette.

Crown lawyer Kate McKay said: "Apparently this was declined, at which stage the applicant took a knife from her bag and swung it across the chest area of the injured party."

Police seized the blade at the scene and arrested O'Brien at her home two days later.

The court heard she leads a chaotic lifestyle due to issues with alcohol.

Defence counsel Luke Curran confirmed his client accepts having the knife while attending hospital for treatment to blood clots, but denies any assault.

He said O'Brien started carrying a blade after suffering a serious attack in the city centre which left her nervous about going out.

"Her account of what happened is the male who was beside her made a number of suggestive comments that were inappropriate," counsel submitted.

"An argument developed and she lifted this knife in her bag; she would say the story given by the male who made the comments that he was just sitting there is entirely fictitious and malicious."

Mr Justice Maguire emphasised the potential damage that can be inflicted by any such weapon.

"The production of a knife could so easily lead to severe injury or even death," he said.

Granting bail, however, the judge ordered O'Brien to comply with any referral for treatment on alcohol abuse.

He also banned her from carry a blade, and added: "I will give the police the power to search her on the spot, if they choose, for any such weapon."