Jail for assault on hospital grounds

An unemployed man who couldn't control his "urges" has been jailed for indecently assaulting a woman on the grounds of Palmerston North Hospital.

Daniel Clinton Fitzgerald, 39, suffers from mental illness, including paranoid schizophrenia, but that was not the reason for his offending on October 1.

He told police when arrested that he had "no control of urges he felt in relation to the victim".

As the Palmerston North District Court heard today, there were some positive signs for Fitzgerald and he recognised the harm he caused.

"While this was serious offending, you are not a man without hope," Judge Barbara Morris told him.

"You cannot blame your disease or illness. You deserve sympathy for that but it does not give you an excuse for doing this.

"On the day in question the female victim and her friend were eating lunch at a café. 

As they left Fitzgerald approached them and unsuccessfully asked for money.

He followed the victim, who become concerned and began to run.

Fitzgerald picked up the pace and caught up to the woman, pushing her from behind. She hit the ground face-first and her skirt rode up, exposing her pantyhose and underwear.

Fitzgerald fell on top of her and indecently assaulted the woman, but ran off when she began screaming.

The victim was uninjured but shaken.

Judge Morris said the assault must have been a "terrifying moment" for the woman, who had suffered as a result of what happened.

"She no longer feels safe a home. She no longer feels safe at night when she's out.

"She's a woman with compassion... and wished that you get assistance," the judge told Fitzgerald.

Defence lawyer Mike Ryan said the assault happened in a matter of seconds."[Fitzgerald's] asked me to point out that there was no skin on skin contact - a point he believes is of some significance when it comes to sentencing.

"Judge Morris noted Fitzgerald's offending history, but gave him some credit, including for his guilty plea.

On one charge of indecent assault he was jailed for 11 months.

Manawatu Standard