A violent drug addict who chased a hospital doctor before stabbing him three times in the back with a needle taken from his own arm was warned by a senior judge on Tuesday that “the ball was in his court” if he wants to avoid another prison term.
The Court of Appeal heard that the doctor had moved to Ireland to realise his dream of becoming an emergency medicine consultant, but has since given up his hopes after the attack left him "shattered”.
The warning was given to Stephen Ennis by Mr Justice John Edwards on Tuesday, after the court quashed a one-year sentence handed down to the father of two.
The assault took place during the first wave of the pandemic in a busy hospital’s emergency department where Ennis was admitted after he had a seizure outside a Garda Station.
At the time of sentencing, Ennis had 72 previous convictions, including convictions for violent disorder, possession of drugs for sale or supply, possession of knives, burglary and begging.
Delivering today’s judgement, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said the court found that not only was the original sentence unduly lenient it had been “appreciably so”.
Ms Justice Kennedy, who was also sitting with Court President Mr Justice George Birmingham, told Ennis he would be re-sentenced in three months’ time after the court considered background reports.
The court’s decision, Mr Justice Edwards added, would be “very much influenced” by the content of probation reports which would focus on Ennis' claim that he was no longer using drugs.
“We are making no promises. The ball is now in your court,” Mr Justice Edwards advised him.
Ennis (32), of Cashel Road, Crumlin, Dublin, was jailed for one year after he pleaded guilty to assaulting a person providing medical care in St James' Hospital, James Street, Dublin 8, on March 7th, 2020.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) later appealed the sentence handed down by Judge Martin Nolan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on October 2020 on the grounds that it was unduly lenient.
Fiona McGowan BL, for the DPP, told the Court of Appeal today that the sentencing judge had given insufficient weight to the harm Ennis’s actions had caused to the injured party.
The doctor, Ms McGowan said, was a foreign national who had been studying for his exams to become an emergency medicine consultant around the time he was attacked by Ennis.
Ms McGowan said that, as a result of the incident, the medic now realises how vulnerable frontline health care workers were in the course of their work and was now focused on a career in general practice.
“It was a very tough decision for him to take,” she added.
Keith Spencer BL, for Ennis, said his client was suffering from a “deep-rooted addiction” at the time of the offence.
“He has done wrong, and he accepts that,” Mr Spencer said. “It would be a retrograde step to send him back to prison.”
Counsel described his client as someone who was “completely detached from the mental element of the offence”.
“The sentencing judge was well within the margins that should be afforded to him by this court, and I would invite the court not to interfere with it [the original sentence),” Mr Spencer continued, adding that his client informed him he had been drug-free for six months and was taking methadone.
Before adjourning sentence until May 12th, Mr Justice Edwards, presiding, with Mr Justice Birmingham sitting remotely, noted that recent legislation meant attacks on medical front-line responders could attract a 40 per cent premium in sentencing.