Vulnerable patient ‘was assaulted repeatedly’

Michelle Buckingham says she saw the abuse
Michelle Buckingham says she saw the abuse
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A NURSE at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital launched a string of attacks against a vulnerable psychiatric patient, a trial heard.

James France is accused of repeatedly assaulting the male patient – who suffers from bipolar disorder – over a two-day period.

A fellow nurse told his trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday the 31-year-old punched the patient in the shoulder – knocking him to the floor – in the hospital’s Carnethy House.

In another incident, France is accused of dragging the naked patient – who was suffering from painful haemorrhoids – into a padded room while shocked colleagues looked on.

Nursing assistant Michelle Buckingham said she had been helping the patient on his ensuite toilet when the man became distressed and started screaming. She said France shouted at the patient “get up, get up” and dragged him up from the toilet while she tried to point out his haemorrhoids.

Ms Buckingham said: “I said, ‘No wonder he’s screaming, look at that’. James said, ‘He’s just attention seeking’.”

She said the patient escaped France’s grip and got on to his bed, angering France as the sheets became dirty.

She said: “James said, ‘That’s exactly what I didn’t want to happen’. He grabbed [the patient] by the arms and pulled him off the bed.”

After pulling off his T-shirt so he was naked, Ms Buckingham said France hauled the man along a corridor to the seclusion room – a padded space where patients are taken to calm down.

Ms Buckingham said France appeared “agitated, aggressive, like he wasn’t in control” while the patient – who was not being physically threatening – was “anxious and very stressed and appeared frightened”.

Nurse Debbie Aughey told the court she witnessed the same incident. Asked by procurator fiscal Arlene Shaw whether France’s actions were “in any way justified in your experience”, she replied: “No.”

Ms Aughey said she saw France punch the patient – who was bipolar, could only take basic instructions, and had previously attacked staff – during another incident on the same day. She said the man had become incontinent in the living room and France struck him with “quite a lot of force” on the shoulder.

France is charged with striking the patient on the body on April 21 last year. On the same day, he is accused of seizing the patient’s body, forcibly removing his clothing, dragging him away in a state of undress, and confining him to a room.

On the next day, he is charged with pushing the patient against a wall, pouring water into his mouth, compelling him to drink it, and holding his head and arms against a wall.

France, formerly of Buccleuch Street but now living in Derbyshire, denies three counts of assault. The trial before Sheriff Gordon Liddle continues.

amcewen@edinburghnews.com