Convicted arsonist threw hot food at psychiatric nurse at Sunderland mental hospital

Hopewood Park hospital
Hopewood Park hospital

A convicted arsonist threw a plate of hot food at a psychiatric nurse when she told him he could not eat in his hospital room.

Magistrates hears Stephen Foster, 44, had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and was staying at Hopewood Park Hospital in Ryhope, when the incident took place, on January 11.

He spent five weeks at Hopewood Park before being discharged by a mental health tribunal. He suffers from psychosis and he starts fires, having warned mental health professionals that he would do so

Gerry Scott, defending

The victim was a female staff nurse on the hospital’s Shoreditch ward.

Laura Lax, prosecuting, said: “At 5.10pm, the defendant was seen heading towards his bedroom, carrying a plate of hot food.

“Hospital policy states that patients in the hospital have to eat in a communal dining area.”

Miss Lax said that when the nurse told him to return to the dining room, he became agitated and refused to go with her.

She said: “The defendant said ‘you have my tea then’ and he threw the plate towards her and it hit her in the chest area.

“She managed to catch it before it hit the floor, but she was covered in food.”

The nurse’s skin felt hot in the aftermath, but she had no burn marks or scarring, the court was told.

Miss Lax said Foster then threw his knife and fork on the floor, and told the victim she ‘deserved it’.

Foster, of George Scott Street, South Shields, pleaded guilty to assault, on the basis of recklessness.

The offence put him in breach of a 20-month suspended sentence for an offence of arson, the court was told.

The victim said in a statement, read out in court: “I’m a nurse and I have to care for people.

“I’m not here to be assaulted, and down to his actions I was unable to care for the rest of my patients.”

Gerry Scott, defending, said Foster suffers from anti-social behaviour disorder and psychosis, thought to be caused by alcohol and drug use.

“He spent five weeks at Hopewood Park before being discharged by a mental health tribunal,” Mr Scott said.

“He suffers from psychosis and he starts fires, having warned mental health professionals that he would do so.

“He accepts it was an assault on a reckless basis.

“He had been eating food away from the communal area before, and couldn’t understand why this particular nurse took issue with it.”

The bench did not activate the suspended sentence, however, Durham Crown Court will be informed of the breach.

Foster was fined £80 and was told to pay £100 compensation to the nurse.