Violent drug addict who stabbed doctor with needle has jail sentence increased on appeal

The doctor in St James's Hospital in Dublin was stabbed in the back with a needle three times by Stephen Ennis (32)
Violent drug addict who stabbed doctor with needle has jail sentence increased on appeal

Peter Doyle

A violent drug addict who charged at a hospital doctor before stabbing him three times in the back with a needle taken from his own arm will be returned to prison to serve a new sentence after his original one-year jail term was more than doubled on appeal.

The Court of Appeal heard 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 by Stephen Ennis (32) left him "shattered".

At a hearing in February, Ennis was told the appeal court would focus on the content of probation reports and was warned that “the ball was in his court” if he wanted to avoid another prison term.

However, the three-judge court was told that Ennis – who has 72 previous convictions – has since been detained on drugs and shoplifting charges.

The court had previously noted that recent legislation meant attacks on medical front-line responders could attract a 40 per cent premium in sentencing.

Assault

Ennis, of Cashel Road, Crumlin, Dublin, was jailed in October 2020 after he pleaded guilty to assaulting a person providing medical care in St James's Hospital, James Street, Dublin 8, on March 7th, 2020.

However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) later appealed the sentence on the grounds that insufficient weight had been given by Judge Martin Nolan to the harm caused to the injured party in the case.

In its submission to the Court of Appeal, the DPP said the medic was a foreign national who had been training to become an emergency medicine consultant when he first encountered Ennis in his hospital’s emergency department.

The man has since opted for a career in general practice as a consequence of the assault, which he said had made him realise how vulnerable front-line healthcare workers were in the course of their duty.

In a judgement delivered by Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, she said the attack has had a “profound impact” on the victim and the hopes he had of pursuing his “long sought-after career” when he moved to Ireland.

Quashing the original sentence, she described the respondent as someone with “a deep-seated drug addiction”, adding that a headline sentence of four years was a suitable starting point for the offence.

She then reduced the term by one year to take into account attempts by Ennis to tackle his drug addiction following a recent return to custody, before suspending the final six months of the three-year prison term.

Ennis’ sentence had been quashed at an appeal hearing in February.

At that time, he was warned by Mr Justice John Edwards that the court’s final decision would be “very much influenced” by the content of probation reports which would focus on Ennis’ claim he was no longer using drugs.

However, Keith Spencer BL, for Ennis, told the court on Thursday that in the intervening period his client had “suffered a relapse” and had been detained on drugs and shoplifting charges.

Consel said his client had not applied for High Court bail because he preferred to remain in custody as he once again tried to combat his drug addiction.

Previously, Mr Spencer said Ennis had been suffering from a “deep-rooted addiction” at the time of the offence.

Seizure

At the sentence hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Nolan was told Ennis had 72 previous convictions, including convictions for violent disorder, possession of drugs for sale or supply, possession of knives, burglary and begging.

Garda Ciaran O'Sullivan told Fiona Crawford BL, prosecuting, that on the day of the assault Ennis was found collapsed outside Pearse Street Garda station having a seizure and was brought by ambulance to St James' Hospital.

Gda O'Sullivan said that while in the hospital, Ennis would not stay on his trolley and was bothering nurses, before appearing to calm down.

Ennis agreed to have a blood sample taken and a doctor inserted a needle into his wrist. Ennis then withdrew the needle, held it over his head and charged towards the doctor.

The doctor ran down the corridor away from Ennis, shouting for help, but the two ended up bundled on the floor together. A healthcare worker came to the doctor's assistance, getting Ennis off of him.

The doctor was unaware that he had been stabbed three times in the back until he was informed by his colleague.

Ennis was brought back to the Garda station where he was deemed unfit to be interviewed for some time. When he was interviewed, he said he did not remember much of the incident, but admitted he had stabbed the doctor.

Gda O'Sullivan agreed with Mr Spencer, defending, that his client was a heroin addict and that the seizure was caused by withdrawal symptoms. He accepted Ennis was behaving “erratically” in the hospital and “babbling” that somebody was going to kill him.

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