Care home nurse describes alleged abuse as ‘playfulness’

Áras Attracta employee filmed sitting on intellectually disabled woman

A 56-year-old care worker has described his sitting on an intellectually disabled woman in her chair at the HSE-run Áras Attracta facility in Swinford, Co. Mayo, as "playful interraction".

Video evidence showing Patrick McLoughlin, Mayfield, Claremorris sitting briefly on the lap of a patient, identified only as ‘Miss A’, was shown to a District Court hearing in Castlebar on Thursday.

Mr McLoughlin, a nurse specialising in mental handicap since 1985, is one of six Áras Attracta staff charged with assaulting patients on dates in November 2014.

Along with five others, who face a single charge of assault at Bungalow 3 in the Áras complex, he has pleaded not guilty.


One care worker has pleaded guilty to five assault charges. She will be sentenced at a later date.

The video evidence on which the State case against all the defendants is based was filmed covertly by RTÉ’s Special Investigations Unit.

Mr McLoughlin's alleged victim was described in court before Judge Mary Devins as a long term patient with a medical history for "challenging behaviour".

Film footage showed the accused sitting on Miss A’s lap before she got up and attempted to strike him. Another member of staff then intervened, telling the patient to tell Mr McLoughlin she was sorry and to “give Pat a hug.”

Martin Maguire, a clinical nurse specialist attached to Áras Attracta, was asked by Patrick Reynolds, counsel for the State, if he regarded sitting on the patient's lap as appropriate behaviour management.

“That is unacceptable,” he replied.

Earlier, Mr Maguire described the defendant as a competent nurse working in a challenging environment.

“I would regard him as a good staff member,” Mr Maguire said.

In evidence, the accused said Miss A, whom he had known for 10 years and got on quite well with, had struck him twice on the back prior to the incident. This had not been captured on camera. .

While agreeing that his action had not been acceptable, Mr McLoughlin said what had happened was on the spur of the moment, “a bit of playfulness”.

Christina Delaney of Lissatava, Hollymount, Co Mayo, is also charged with a single count of assault against Miss A.

Footage was shown to the court of the accused, a health care assistant, forcing Miss A back into her chair before sitting on her and preventing her getting up.

Mr Maguire, the clinical nurse specialist, described the action of Ms Delaney as “unacceptable”.

Ms Delaney told the court she had been trying to keep Miss A - who previously had to be treated in hospital for an eye injury - in a safe zone by keeping her in her chair and asked for her consent before sitting in the chair.

Under cross-examination the defendant agreed that what she had done was an unacceptable form of behaviour management but she was trying to keep Miss in a safe zone at the time.

Judge Devins said she would consider the evidence and will give a date for her decision in both matters on Friday.

Miss A also was also allegedly assaulted by Anna Ywunong Botsimbo (34), of Lowpark, Charlestown, Co Mayo.

It is alleged Ms Botsimbo assaulted Miss A by tugging her hoodie and pulling her into her chair.

Peter Flynn, solicitor, said the defendant had put Miss A sitting down but not in an aggressive fashion.

Mr Flynn applied to the judge for a direction stating there was no evidence of an assault having taken place. He added that a senior garda, in an interview, had not put it to the accused that an assault had taken place. Judge Devins is to rule on Friday on the application for a direction.

Cases against Kathleen King, Knockshanbally, Straide, Foxford, Co Mayo, and Joan Walsh, Carrowilkeen, Curry, Co Sligo, are due to be heard on Friday.