Psychiatric nurse jailed for stabbing colleague with syringe at Galway hospital

Judge described assault as ‘simply outrageous’ and one that should end defendant’s career

The accused told Judge Mary Fahy he had never intended to harm his colleague.

The accused told Judge Mary Fahy he had never intended to harm his colleague.


A psychiatric nurse has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for assaulting another nurse with a syringe filled with sedating, anti- psychotic medication.

Kofi Kankam (48), 15 The Clarin, Athenry, Co Galway, denied a charge of assaulting Emer Hyland, causing her harm, at the Psychiatric Unit at University Hospital Galway, on February 5th last year.

Ms Hyland, who is in her twenties, told a hearing at Galway District Court on Thursday that gardaí came into the male ward with a patient that evening who was very unwell. She was dealing with another patient at the time who had absconded. She was sitting in the nurse’s station having just got off the phone from speaking to security about that patient when she suddenly felt a sharp pinch in her left side.

Donna Long, also a nurse, and Kankam had been standing behind her. Ms Long was holding a kidney dish which contained two syringes, which had been prepared for the patient the gardaí had brought in. She jumped up and saw blood coming from her side. She and Ms Long went into a linen closet to examine her side. Kankam came in and said he was sorry.

Management were made aware of the incident and while Ms Hyland was brought to A&E for treatment, Kankam was escorted as far as the door and told to go home.

Ms Hyland said she had been traumatised by the incident and while she had loved working in Galway, she had since moved to another psychiatric unit in Mayo.

During cross examination by defence solicitor, John Martin, Ms Hyland said she had not engaged in any banter with the accused. She said she had her back to him when it occurred and she had just come off the phone. “He passed a comment, ‘I’ve got the gal’,” she said.


Ms Long gave evidence she was standing near the nurse’s station with the kidney dish containing the syringes, which had sheaths on the needles, when Kankam suddenly grabbed one of them. She could see there was blood on the needle when he placed the syringe back in the dish.

The accused told Judge Mary Fahy he had never intended to harm Ms Hyland. He said they had been engaged in some banter and he had jokingly picked up the syringe. He said he saw the sheath protecting the needle was present when he picked it up from the kidney dish and that it must have dropped off back into the dish. He said he apologised to Ms Hyland at the time and had since written a letter of apology.

He confirmed he had been a nurse working in Ireland for the last 10 years. Judge Mary Fahy said Kankam was not sorry enough to come into court and plead guilty. She said it was his right to contest the charge but he had put the victim through the trauma of having to give evidence and the court had been left with no choice but to impose a custodial sentence.

“It’s a very serious assault, to prick someone with a syringe and to have it done to you by another professional working with you is simply outrageous,” the judge said.

Mr Martin said his client had returned from Africa to face the charge and he asked the judge to suspend any sentence or his client’s career would be ended. “It should be ended”, Judge Fahy said before imposing a 12-month sentence. Leave to appeal was granted.