Patient's terrifying assault on medic

A Wigan patient subjected his consultant psychiatrist to a terrifying ordeal, a court heard.
Wigan and Leigh CourthouseWigan and Leigh Courthouse
Wigan and Leigh Courthouse

Stephen Alder, 42, wrapped a roll of plastic bin bags around and between his hands to create a form of a ligature.

He then marched into the private office of Dr Nismen Lathif, locking the door behind him to hold him hostage, before advancing on the startled medic.

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The tense five-minute stand-off ended when Dr Lathif’s words calmed Alder down and he unlocked the door and walked out.

But as he left, Wigan magistrates were told, he warned mental health unit nursing staff nearby: “Tell him to make sure he locks his door next time” and: “This may happen again.”

Alder, of Davy Road, Abram, was being treated at Leigh Infirmary for mental health issues at the time, the bench heard, and wrongly accused the doctor of changing his prescription.

Alder had denied a charge of common assault, but after failing to appear for his trial, was found guilty in his absence.

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Justices sentenced him to four months’ prison - suspended for 12 months. He was ordered to pay Dr Lathif £100 compensation for trauma the psychiatrist suffered and take part in a six-month drugs rehabilitation order and 30-day “activity order”.
The presiding magistrate told Alder: “This is a very serious matter and a very frightening episode for Dr Lathif in his private office which caused him an extreme fear of assault.”

Tess Kenyon, prosecuting, said Alder had advanced towards the sitting doctor leaving him in genuine fear he was about to be seriously assaulted.

In statement read out at the trial, Dr Lathif said: “I was intimidated. I was afraid for my safety. I thought he may be going to put the bin bags around my neck and try and strangle me.”

Miss Kenyon said: “This was a threatening situation for the doctor who believed that had he not been able to diffuse the situation, his safety may have been compromised.

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“He now always locks the door behind him when he is in his office at the hospital.”

Bob Toppin, defending, said: “It must have been a frightening ordeal for Dr Lathif but thankfully no violence was used.

“Mr Alder tells me that the reason he had wrapped the plastic bags around and between his hands was that he thought he wanted to commit suicide.

“He acknowledges that his behaviour was wrong, apologises sincerely to Dr Lathif and recognises that such protests should be carried out in a different manner.”

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Alder also stated to his lawyer that he agrees that this type of conduct,”even for somebody with mental health issues,” was “completely unacceptable.”

Gail Briers, chief nurse and executive director for clinical operational services at 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We take the safety and protection of our professionals, staff, service users and visitors very seriously. We are committed to tackling violence against those providing healthcare services, and follow up any incidents with the appropriate action or support the individual to take action.

“Our security policies and procedures fully outline our commitment to providing a safe and secure environment for our staff, patients and visitors.”