Ambulance crews in Laois had to be called out 164 times last year just to attend to one Stradbally man, who would habitually ring emergency services after drinking too much alcohol and taking prescribed tablets.
At last week’s district court Judge Catherine Staines ordered John Hughes, 1 The Green, Stradbally, to hand over his social welfare from now on to his sister, so that he would have no way of buying alcohol over the next few months while his case was adjourned.
Hughes was charged with being intoxicated, using threatening or abusive behaviour, and assault, at the The Green, Stradbally, on November 13 last year.
Inspector Aidan Farrelly gave evidence that Hughes had phoned for an ambulance 164 times in 2014. On this occasion, the gardaí attended with the ambulance crew and when they arrived Hughes, who was highly intoxicated, became aggressive and abusive, and he punched a garda in the chest.
Fortunately, the garda was just winded and was not injured, the inspector said.
Hughes had seven previous convictions.
Defence, Mr Declan Breen said his client’s drinking had developed to a chronic stage over the last seven years, and by 2014 it had become his habit to ring for an ambulance in this way. Hughes would drink to considerable excess and ingest tablets for depression, and would then panic when he began to feel ill and call the ambulance service.
Mr Breen admitted that Hughes would make a nuisance of himself, and said that he had no recollection of the incident.
“He behaved in an appalling manner,” said Mr Breen.
Mr Breen explained that Hughes had been gainfully employed until six years ago, but “he fell to pieces” after his marriage broke up and his drinking increased. He made a number of attempts to seek help, but kept relapsing.
Defence concluded by saying that Hughes is now engaging with a social worker and availing of psychiatric services and addiction services, as is also attending the National Learning Network.
Hughes had a letter of apology to offer the garda he assaulted, and Mr Breen said that Hughes’ sister was willing to help him, adding that she had been very fulsome in her praise of the efforts he had already made.
“The ambulance service is under huge pressure and this is the last thing they need, this is just not acceptable,” declared Judge Staines.
The judge asked was Hughes willing to hand over his social welfare to his sister, so there would be no money for him to spend on alcohol. Mr Breen said he was willing to do so, and Hughes’ sister told the court she too was prepared to abide by the judge’s direction.
Judge Staines put the matter back to June 11, and remanded Hughes on continual bail. She also ordered Hughes to have €200 on that date for the Garda Benevolent Fund.