“I have to get five injections every day for my diabetes. It takes me ten minutes just to answer the door.”
But Paul Parks – who served three years for terror offences in the Maze Prison back in the 1980’s – was released on bail to appeal his three-month sentence for assaulting a nurse.
On Tuesday Antrim Magistrates’ Court heard how the feeble 59-year-old told the nurse who had been treating him to “f*** off or I’ll show you what I can do” before stubbing it out in her right index finger.
He’d been told he couldn’t light up as there were people on the same ward in Antrim Area Hospital who were using oxygen and there was a risk of a fire or an explosion.
But he told us after the hearing he hadn’t stubbed the cigarette out – claiming instead she had been burned after she slapped the lit fag out of his mouth.
And he claims he was left with no choice but to spark up his rolled up ciggie – because nurses had refused to take him outside to spark up for four days.
“I smoke 60 fags a day,” says the Larne man who found himself in the hospital in February after going into a diabetic coma.
“I kept asking the nurses to take me outside and they kept saying they would, but they never did. This went on for four days, so I lost my head and just lit one up – I was desperate.
“The nurse came down and slapped it out of my mouth and burned her finger and then I lifted my tobacco and there was a bit of a struggle as these nurses grabbed it off me.”
Parks was arrested and removed from the hospital after the shocking incident which he says he “regrets”.
Though it’s hard to believe by looking at him today but Paul Parks is a former champion powerlifter but is a shadow of his former self having been left unable to walk after suffering what he described as an horrific “fall” last November which left him with a broken back.
In court it was claimed he had suffered a vicious beating which left him paralysed.
“I fall quite often because of my diabetes,” says Parks. “My legs just give way and last November at my last house I fell down the stairs and was lying there for seven hours until my ex-wife found me.
“I had no feeling below my neck. I’d broken my spine in four places. I’ve gone through a nightmare to be honest and I would be dreading going to jail in this state.”
The father-of-four lives alone in a bungalow in McGarel Court in the Co Antrim town and relies on the use of a wheelchair and a rollator to get around and requires four daily visits from carers to help him.
“I pleaded guilty because I was told if I didn’t, I could get a custodial sentence, so I was a bit shocked that I got one anyway even though I pleaded guilty!
“Look at me! I’m no threat to anyone. I have to get five injections every day for my diabetes. It takes me ten minutes just to answer the door. The shop is five minutes away but it takes me forever to get there and back.
“I’ve lost eight stone and I’m in constant pain. I really hope I get the jail sentence suspended. I used to be a champion power-lifter and won a big championship in 2002.
“I could deadlift 200 kilos, bench press 150 (kilos) and squat 160 (Kilos). I know it’s hard to believe looking at me now but it’s true.”
During this week’s sentence hearing it emerged Paul Parks had previous convictions for terror related offences.
He confirmed to us he used to be in the UVF during the 1980’s and got three years for possession of a gun and membership of a prescribed organisation.
But he says he became disillusioned with the UVF while serving time in the Maze Prison with notorious UVF boss Frankie Curry who he accused of ‘milking’ the system!
He said, “Frankie Curry was the Commanding Officer in the jail at the time but he used to come into my cell and steal my teabags, milk and sugar – and then he’d give it to an IRA man in a cell down the wing!
“I mean, what the f**k was that about? So we were deadly enemies on the outside but inside we were supposed to be friends or something. I couldn’t get my head round that so left when I got out.”
Sectarian killer Frankie Curry was a senior figure in loyalism over three decades until he was murdered in 1999 during a feud.
A nephew of UVF leader Gusty Spence he was a member of both the UVF and UDA at various times during the Troubles and was believed to be behind between 12 and 19 murders.
“I stayed out of trouble for about 15 years when I got out of jail. I went to university and studied youth and community work at Jordanstown,” says Paul.
“I used to work for the Probation Service for three years and worked with dangerous offenders’ – taking them on walks up the Mournes.
“That’s me meeting Prince Philip when he was awarding me my gold medal for the Duke of Edinburgh award after I climbed the Bavarian Alps.”
But Paul admits he got himself into trouble again with the law and the paramilitaries.
“The UVF in Larne tried to kill me a few times because I was getting drunk and rowing with them,” he says.
“I was involved in a messy divorce and wasn’t able to see my daughter. I ended up breaching a non-molestation order and got 13 weeks in jail.”
This week a prosecuting lawyer outlined that Parks had signed himself out from Antrim Area Hospital on 28 February this year but became angry when his taxi didn’t show up so on ward 2b, he lit a cigarette.
With other patients receiving oxygen therapy nearby, quite apart from a ban on smoking indoors, staff feared he was causing a fire risk so asked him to put it out.
“The staff tried to get it off him but in the scuffle to get it, Staff Nurse Martin got burned on her left hand,” said the lawyer, adding that Parks “lashed out aggressively, throwing a water jug and punching a fire alarm panel.”
Fearing for the safety of other patients and themselves, the ward staff called the police who arrested Parks and during interviews, he denied intentionally burning the nurse but did admit throwing the jug and punching the fire alarm.
He later entered guilty plea to common assault of the staff nurse and attempted criminal damage to hospital property.
Defence counsel Neil Moore conceded that although Parks has “Troubles related” convictions, “the Paul Parks who I appeared for ten years ago wasn’t this man who is before you today,” he told District Judge Nigel Broderick.
“He accepts that his behaviour at that point was abhorrent,” said Mr Moore, submitting that as his diabetes had left him “close to a coma…his mind was clouded” at the time.
He further submitted: “His presentation to me today is that if a deeply apologetic, regretful individual who I have to say, when you look at him, doesn’t have his troubles to seek.”
Jailing Parks, DJ Broderick said given the nurse’s statement, “in my view this is a deliberate attempt by you to injure the nurse.”
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