Northern Ireland

Pharmacist Maurice Currie jailed over prescription drugs

Maurice Currie
Image caption Maurice Currie pleaded guilty at to 12 counts of supplying controlled drugs

A pharmacist has been sentenced to one year in jail for illegally supplying almost 875,000 prescription drugs.

Maurice Currie, 45, of Portmore Road, Lisburn, pleaded guilty at to 12 counts of supplying controlled drugs from January 2009 to December 2013.

The drugs were a mixture of sleeping tablets and anti-depressants.

They were valued at £60,000 to the pharmacy, but with a potential street value of £600,000.

The tablets included 145,000 Tramadol, 165,000 Diazepam and 240,000 co-codamol.

Defence for Currie claimed that a man from west Belfast had been the dominant force behind a vast amount of the missing 875,000 tablets at the Railway Street business in Armagh.

During the course of court proceedings the man, named in a police interview with Currie, was said to have a "particularly violent background".

A defence barrister said Currie was a man of "good character" who "caved into his oppressor after falling into depression following the death of his mother".

The prosecution accepted that Currie had made no financial benefit from the missing pills.

Currie was also labelled as a "soft touch" who gave out tens of thousands of prescription drugs "over and beyond GP consent" to 12 members of the public.

He initially came under the suspicion of the Department of Health's medical regulatory group (MRG) when an audit was carried out at the pharmacy in September 2013.

A deficit of 44,000 tablets was found.

Several further audits were carried out as it became clear that hundreds of thousands of prescription drugs were missing.

In a "panic, knee-jerk reaction" attempt to cover up his tracks, Currie ordered three deliveries of Tramadol and Zopiclone tablets.

The deliveries were discovered during one of the MRG audits.

The judge at Newry Crown Court said: "It is accepted that he succumbed to the criminality after the death of his mother in which he suffered depression that could be considered post traumatic stress disorder.

"This is man of good character and I will give him significant credit for that. In some ways he tried to be helpful to people who could not get an appointment with their GP. He has now lost his job over this."

Currie was given 12 months on each count to run concurrently.