A care worker who mistreated three mental health patients at a residential unit in Templepatrick, County Antrim, will not be sent to jail.
Tracey Balantine, 29, of Garden Village, Antrim, was convicted last May of the ill-treatment or wilful neglect of a man and two women at the Broadacres residential unit.
The offences were committed between 31 December 2016 and 22 May 2017.
She was also convicted of assaulting the male patient.
In court on Tuesday, Balantine’s six month prison sentence was reduced on appeal.
A judge, sitting at Antrim County Court, sentenced her to 100 hours of community service and imposed a three-year probation order.
At the hearing, a prosecution lawyer read out evidence submitted by Balantine’s colleagues at her original contest.
He said that on one occasion Balantine set a man in a room alone strapped into a wheelchair, with blankets around the foot of the chair which left marks, while the handles of the wheelchair were wedged into the bed bars.
Another time a colleague saw Balantine putting her hands on a patient’s shoulders before pushing her to the floor while using an expletive.
The court heard that on one occasion Balantine came behind a patient who was walking down a hallway using handrails and put her knees into the back of his knees, causing him to fall, before telling him to get up, again, using an expletive.
The prosecution lawyer told the court that staff at the residential unit cared for adults with “complex learning difficulties”.
The lawyer said the injured patients could not communicate or give evidence.
He said concerns about Balantine’s behaviour were raised by staff working on individual shifts with her.
They had not realised this was a “common occurrence”.
Balantine is currently suspended from practising as a carer with an interim order in place pending the outcome of the sentence appeal.
The judge told her she had behaved in a “reprehensible manner” and was “convicted of some of the most serious crimes that can be committed by someone entrusted with the care of the vulnerable.”
“It is the hope and expectation of the court that you will never again be put into a position of responsibility over the vulnerable,” he said.
Allowing the appeal, the judge said that if he were to affirm the six month sentence handed down by the lower court it would “effectively mean three months in custody.”
He said while this would undoubtedly be a “harrowing experience” and provide “some “form of retribution” it would not address the underlying causes of Balantine’s behaviour.
She was ordered to pay £1,000 to each of her victims.