A PENSIONER who poured lighter fluid over himself and threatened to blow himself up at a hospital has been spared jail.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard John Handley, 67, was ‘at his lowest ebb’ when he turned up at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, in March last year, and handed receptionists a note threatening to hurt himself.
The note said the wheelchair user had a knife and they should phone emergency services immediately. The entire hospital was evacuated and Handley was arrested on a false imprisonment charge and put on remand for 72 days. As reported, he went on hunger strike over prison conditions.
The court heard Handley, who has no previous convictions, took the drastic action after he had reached the end of his tether following a battle with the hospital over claims of negligence when he suffered a stroke in 2011.
He claims if signs of a stroke had been recognised sooner and he had received treatment for it he would not be paralysed and in a wheelchair now.
But the charge of false imprisonment was dropped and, in December, Handley pleaded guilty to being in possession of a bladed article and a public nuisance charge.
At his sentencing hearing Handley’s barrister, Tom Horder, told the court, ‘This was something that can perhaps be described as a hopelessly desperate and ill-thought-out act committed by a man at his very lowest ebb.
‘It is the culmination of a very sad set of events involving a hitherto law-abiding man.
‘Mr Handley fully realises what a reckless, stupid act this was and is very keen to express his sorrow and remorse to those affected.
‘He meant no harm to anyone but himself. He has undergone serious psychological changes since the stroke and finds it difficult to trust people.’
The court heard Handley moved to South Africa at 22 and started a database business. It was so successful he retired at 40 and built his own yacht which he sailed around the Caribbean.
He and wife Shirley lived on the boat until they travelled to the UK to visit relatives and he had the stroke which changed his life. He has been unable to return to Trinidad, where the boat is moored, because he is too ill. He and his wife now live in a homeless hostel in Gosport.
Judge Michael Vere-Hodge sentenced Handley to six months’ imprisonment for possession of a bladed article and 12 months for the public nuisance offence, to run consecutively.
The sentence was suspended for two years.