A man who gave his wife an overdose of prescription drugs to “have some peace and quiet” was jailed for 13 months today.
Stephen Hirst, 53, was the full-time carer for his wife and gave her six times her normal dosage of morphine in order that she would sleep all day at their home in Exeter, Devon.
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 the night before.
“She soon discovered afterwards that the defendant has 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 following 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.
During the police interviews, Hirst maintained that he had not intended to harm to wife.
“In the interview he said he replace the drugs with a higher dose and in summary said he required respite from his caring duties,” Mr Bowen said.
As Mrs Hirst had been a regular user of morphine, she had built up a tolerance and the large dose administered by her husband did not have any long-term effects.
The court heard that she had previously been prescribed 60mg morphine tablets, which is how her husband had been able to give them to her.
Since the offences, she was divorcing him after five years of marriage and Hirst was now living with his 87-year-old mother in Leeds.
The defendent, of Hatherleigh Road, Exeter, pleaded guilty to 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.
Those charges related to several hundred indecent images of children found on his wife’s laptop when he was arrested.
They were described in court as “levels one and two” - meaning they were erotic poses rather than featuring adults and sexual activity.
David Evans, defending, said the defendant was “truly remorseful” for what he had done.
“Mr Hirst was, for the duration of the marriage to his wife, her carer,” he said.
“The defendant would provide her with the medication and would be aware of her tolerance to morphine.
“He foolishly changed her medication the previous night to put her to sleep the next day - to give himself some respite.
“She spent that day asleep.”
Mr Evans said that by the evening Mrs Hirst was well enough to eat dinner with her husband.
“Even so, he administered that overdose to his wife without her knowledge and rendered her unconscious through sleep,” he said.
“He recognises that is a serious offence. It is right to say there was no risk of death or injury in his wife’s case.”
Judge Philip Wassell said that only an immediate custodial sentence was appropriate and said it was fortunate Mrs Hirst had a tolerance to morphine as otherwise the dosage could have been fatal.
“I have given you credit for your guilty plea but this was the deliberate administration of a toxic substance, a Class A drug, which is inherently dangerous,” he said.
“It was the administration of a dose six times more than she was having.
“His intention was to shut her up - to have some peace and quiet.
“The appropriate sentence is 13 months.”
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.