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Man gave disabled wife an overdose 'for some peace and quiet'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 01, 2013

Stephen Hirst, who poisoned his wife, has been jailed for 13 months

Stephen Hirst, who poisoned his wife, has been jailed for 13 months

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A Devon man who gave his wife an overdose of prescription drugs to "have some peace and quiet" has been jailed for 13 months.

Stephen Hirst, 53, was the full-time carer for his wife and gave her six times her normal dosage of morphine so she would sleep all day at their home in Exeter.

The father-of-two told police he gave his wife the tablets so that he would get some "respite" from his caring duties.

Mrs Hirst, 42, suffers long-term medical problems resulting from being a double leg amputee and was prescribed morphine by her doctor.

Exeter Crown Court heard that on the morning of September 30 last year, she woke up and took her usual two 10mg tablets, which her husband left by her bed.

"She soon discovered afterwards that the defendant had substituted those tablets with two 60mg tablets," prosecutor David Bowen told the court.

"So she had taken a dose of 120mg. She started feeling unwell and she challenged him about it and he made admissions about it but he could not give reasons for it."

Mrs Hirst spent the day asleep in bed but was well enough in the evening to eat dinner. The next day she contacted the NHS Direct telephone helpline to ask advice on whether she should take her usual prescription, given the overdose the previous day.

Staff at NHS Direct were so concerned they contacted police and Hirst was arrested. In police interviews, Hirst maintained that he had not intended to harm his wife.

The defendant, of Hatherleigh Road, Exeter, admitted a charge of unlawfully administering a drug intending to "injure or aggrieve" his wife. He denied the more serious charge of unlawfully administering a drug intending to "endanger" her life. Hirst also admitted one charge of making an indecent photograph and three of possession of an indecent photograph of a child, charges related to several hundred indecent images of children found on his wife's laptop when he was arrested.

David Evans, defending, said Hirst was "truly remorseful". Mr Hirst was, for the duration of the marriage, his wife's carer, he said. "He foolishly changed her medication the previous night to put her to sleep the next day – to give himself some respite."

Judge Philip Wassell said that only an immediate custodial sentence of 13 months was appropriate and it was fortunate Mrs Hirst had a tolerance to morphine, or the dosage could have been fatal.

The judge imposed a one-month prison sentence to run concurrently for the child pornography offences. He also placed Hirst on the sex offenders' register for seven years and ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the computer equipment.

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