Man jailed over ‘horrible incident’

A man attacks staff at Pharmacy4Less Jesmond. Image: Supplied
A man attacks staff at Pharmacy4Less Jesmond. Image: Supplied

A man has been jailed over an August attack on a group of pharmacy workers, saying he could not explain his aggressive actions

In August, Craig Thompson had gone to the Pharmacy 4 Less at Jesmond, near Newcastle, NSW, to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Feras Karem, CEO of the Pharmacy4Less group, told the AJP after the incident that when Mr Thompson had experienced difficulty with the vaccination form, a 17-year-old pharmacy assistant attempted to help him.

“He turned on her, just turned on her,” Mr Karem said. “He started hurling expletives and swearing at her, screaming at the top of his voice.”

The man was encouraged to leave the pharmacy but came back in, lunging and screaming at the pharmacy workers, as seen in CCTV footage shared with the AJP.

He lashed out, swinging a plastic bag containing bottles, throwing bottles at the staff and kicking them.

Mr Karem called on police to provide more prompt attention to such incidents, saying that pharmacists and pharmacy assistants were in a “vulnerable position” when such attacks came.

“If we call you, we need you to come. We need your help,” he said.

Mr Thompson was arrested several days after the attack, fronting Newcastle Local Court and pleading guilty to charges relating to the incident. He has remained in custody since.

The next day, Pharmacy Guild NSW president David Heffernan urged the general public to be patient in pharmacies, praising the “incredibly brave” pharmacy assistant who was first attacked as well as the rest of the staff, and saying that “No workplace should have to be confronted with that”.

Now, the Newcastle Herald’s Gabriel Fowler reports that appearing at the Newcastle Local Court for sentencing, Mr Thompson could not adequately explain why he lashed out at the staff.

He had refused to wear a mask at the pharmacy, and had been in breach of an intensive corrections order when the August attack took place.

Mr Fowler reports that one of the pharmacy staff had been splashed with drops of Mr Thompson’s blood, after the man cut himself on one of the bottles. The worker also sustained a cut and is now waiting on test results for blood-borne disease.

Mr Thompson’s solicitor, Nicole Orr, told the court that “It’s an ugly scene and would have been highly confronting for the people confronted,” noting her client’s remorse and embarrassment.

She said Mr Thompson was intoxicated when the incident took place, having been abusing alcohol since 2017 after he stopped taking medication to treat a mental illness.

“He can’t explain why he behaved in that way at that time.

“It was just a horrible incident, and he has insight into how that would have affected people at the pharmacy,” said Ms Orr.

Mr Thompson was handed a 15-month jail sentence, with a non-parole period of eight months, taking into account time already spent in custody.

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