A man who launched an unprovoked attack on a nurse providing him care will likely have no criminal record from the offence.
Ryan Stard, 24, pleaded guilty earlier this year to aggravated assault for the 2015, incident and was sentenced Tuesday to a three-year probation on a conditional discharge.
On the day of the incident, Stard had attended Abbotsford Regional Hospital believing he was having a heart attack.
In the days leading up to the night in question, Stard had slept and ate very little and was anxious and depressed following a break up with a girlfriend. Stard’s mother reported her son had been acting strangely and out of character.
He had been a regular marijuana user but had stopped for several weeks before the day of the attack, when he smoked a significant amount.
While the nurse (who cannot be named due to a publication ban) was attempting to measure his heart rate, Stard became agitated, and possibly confused about who the nurse was and what was happening.
Stard then attacked the nurse, punching him at least two or three time, before being pinned down.
“There is no definitive answer for why Mr. Stard snapped,” judge Edna Ritchie said in her ruling, delivered in a packed room at Abbotsford Provincial Court.
Since the attack, the nurse has been unable to return to work and has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which has made it hard for him to be in crowds, balance himself and hold memories, Ritchie said.
“Although he is improving, he is hardly the man he was before the attack,” Ritchie said.
The effects of the attack have also been hard on the victim’s family with his brain injuries making him “a very different husband and father than he was before March 1, 2015,” she said.
In explaining her decision to give Stard a conditional discharge, rather than a suspended sentence – which would have also entailed probation but resulted in a permanent record – Ritchie pointed to mitigating factors, including the fact that Stard pleaded guilty and spared the victim from having to testify.
Ritchie also agreed with defence attorney James Boxall’s argument that special consideration should not be given to the fact that the victim was a nurse.
Boxall argued that the incident was a one-off and that a harsher sentence would not act as a deterrent to others in similar situations given how unusual it is for a patient in a confused mental state to attack a nurse.
More than two dozen nurses were in attendance at the sentencing, and there were audible murmurs in the courtroom when Boxall made the remark.
After the ruling was made, the B.C. Nurses Union president, Gayle Duteil, said Boxall was “very misinformed.”
“We struggle every day with violence,” she said, saying it was the number one cause of job loss among healthcare workers.
Duteil said the union is in contact with both the federal and provincial governments to change laws to better protect nurses and healthcare workers.
“We’re powerless, so we’re going to change the laws… full stop. Because this has to change.”
She called the ruling a “disappointment for every nurse in B.C. today because it appears that it’s OK for the public to pummel a nurse and leave them with life altering injuries.”