Bury St Edmunds man jailed for punching GP in the face
PUBLISHED: 17:46 26 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:46 26 July 2018
A man has been jailed for 20 months for barging into a GP's surgery in Bury St Edmunds and repeatedly punching a female doctor in face.
Steven Cook, 41, of Devon Close, Bury, appeared for sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday, having pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm at a previous court hearing.
Prosecuting, Russell Butcher said Cook had burst into the Victoria Surgery, where Dr Victoria Hunter was carrying out a consultation with a patient, and yelled ‘you killed my dad’ before punching the GP in the face, knocking her to the ground.
Cook continued the attack while Dr Hunter curled into a ball to avoid the blows.
The court heard the GP, who had worked at the surgery for more than seven years, was struck four or five times, leaving her with a displaced front tooth, a large cut to her top lip requiring three stitches and bruising to her jaw and face.
In an impact statement, read aloud in court, Dr Hunter said the psychological and emotional harm caused by the attack would take longer to heal than her physical injuries.
The court heard that Cook’s father, a patient of Dr Hunter, had died in hospital nine days before the assault. When arrested, Cook had been recorded saying to police officers that the assault had been a ‘revenge attack for his father’.
In mitigation, Stephen Mather told the court that Cook, having had six weeks in custody to think about what he had done, ‘thoroughly regretted’ his actions.
Judge John Devaux jailed Cook for 20 months and put in place a five year restraining order banning him from making contact with Dr Hunter or going to her surgery. Dr Hunter has since returned to work.
Speaking after the sentencing hearing, Dr Hunter said: “It is difficult to put into words how shocking and frightening it was to have someone throw open the door of my room, whilst I was consulting with another patient, come towards me, and strike me repeatedly.
“As well as the physical injuries I suffered, the attack left me feeling frightened and vulnerable – something I never expected to feel when I became a GP.
“The vast majority of patients are lovely people who are very grateful for the care we provide and I am determined to try and put this horrible incident behind me and move on.”
Dr Christopher Browning, Chair of the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This was an absolutely appalling attack and I welcome the court’s recognition of this in its treatment of the case.
“The NHS has a zero tolerance policy towards attacks on its staff, all of whom are dedicated professionals who work extremely hard for their communities.
“There are no possible circumstances that could ever justify or excuse such a horrific assault on a GP in her own surgery, whatever the perpetrator may have thought.
“The fact this dreadful incident happened in front of another patient during a private appointment makes it all the more diabolical.
“Dr Hunter is a kind, caring and conscientious GP and the care she provided to her assailant’s father was of the highest standard.
“NHS England has confirmed that it has no concerns whatsoever regarding the treatment she administered to him.”