An aged care worker has been sentenced to 240 hours of community service after assaulting a 91-year-old dementia patient over alleged “homophobic” insults, undoing 30 years’ worth of good work in the industry.
Neil Jenkins, 45, had worked at the Good Shepherd Lodge in Mackay, Queensland, for the best part of two decades and had been looking after the victim for six months before the incident occurred.
But as he appeared in the Mackay Magistrates Court this week, the Court heard that on October 11, 2022, Mr Jenkins struck the victim over the head with his very own walking stick.
The victim “could be difficult” due to frequent outbursts as a result of his cognitive decline and was apparently sitting on the ground with his back against the wall when the incident occurred.
Police prosecutor, Sergeant Linden Pollard, said Mr Jenkins was in conversation with the victim and claimed the 91-year-old had made derogatory comments that included the words “poofter” and “fag”.
Mr Jenkins allegedly took the victims walking stick and hit him on the head, before the victim lashed out in response and just missed a follow-up knock by a handheld iPad.
Magistrate Bronwyn Hartigan acknowledged that there were no injuries and that the victim had made derogatory comments. An unblemished history also weighed in his favour as no conviction was recorded.
Rosie Varley, Legal Aid Queensland solicitor, highlighted a number of private issues that have unfortunately impacted Mr Jenkins’ own behaviour, including his own partner’s alcohol abuse.
“He was quite stressed going to work that day,” Ms Varley said.
“The victim did make homophobic slurs against my client… matters escalated on this day.
“My client instructs that he is very remorseful.”
However, Magistrate Hartigan said an offence had still been committed and Mr Jenkins, following a guilty plea, was ordered to complete 240 hours of unpaid community service.
Mr Jenkins has not worked since his contract with Good Shepherd Lodge was terminated.
Raelene Phillips, Good Shepherd Lodge Chief Executive Officer (CEO), could not comment on the incident, however, she said all employees are encouraged to seek support if they face any workplace or personal challenges.
“We are committed to supporting all team members and have an Employee Assistance Program in place for anyone at any time to access on a confidential basis for matters related to any issue that may arise while caring for residents as well as those related to personal matters outside of work,” Ms Phillips said.
The Health Ombudsman is yet to determine if Mr Jenkins can return to work in the aged care sector in the future.