A staff nurse who was addicted to painkillers because she was depressed was aware a surveillance camera was fitted in a hospital medication room but “didn’t care” as she had to satisfy her craving for the tablets, a court heard on Thursday.
Emma King (36), of Ballyclose Street, Limavady, but whose address was given before as Lyttlesdale, Garvagh, had previously pleaded guilty to the theft of 982 Co-Codamol tablets and other medication from the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine where she worked.
She admitted two charges of theft as an employee and a judge previously said it was a “breach of trust” case.
The defendant took the Co-Codamol tablets - used for pain relief - worth £80 from the Causeway Hospital between June 15 and September 11 last year.
And during the same period King also took a quantity of Gabapentin Medreich of unknown value from the hospital.
It is used to treat epilepsy and as pain relief.
References handed into the court for the defendant included one from one of the Queen’s representatives in Northern Ireland, broadcaster Helen Mark, who is Deputy Lieutenant of County Londonderry - a neighbour of King’s family.
At Coleraine Magistrates Court a prosecutor said staff made a complaint to police that King was suspected of theft whilst on duty in a rehabilitation ward
During a “frank and emotional” police interview King admitted she took the tablets and was addicted to them as she suffers from bouts of depression.
The court heardthat the defendant had been working on all occasions when medication was taken tablets were found during a search of her property.
She told police she indicated she was aware a camera had been installed in the medications room but due to her addiction she “didn’t care”.
The court heard that she had a previous caution for a similar matter and on this occasion she had made full admissions and co-operated with police.
The prosecutor said King had been suspended from her job and reported to the nursing authorities.
Defence solicitor Fergus McIntosh said a pre-sentence report gave a detailed insight into what happened to Mrs King and her family over the last ten years.
The court was told her late mother had also worked as a nurse.
Four references were handed into the court including one from Mrs Mark, Deputy Lieutenant for County Londonderry, who is a neighbour of King’s family.
Mr McIntosh explained that the defendant came from a highly respected family in the Limavady area and family members were in court to support her.
He said she has lost her job, marriage and home and asked what greater a penalty a court could impose.
He said King has addressed her addiction issues and is never likely to be back before a court.
He said justice should be tempered with compassion and asked for a conditional discharge.
Adddressing the court, District Judge Chris Holmes said the references spoke well of King’s character and the devastating effect the offending had on her.
However he said the public demands the highest standard of behaviour from people who are working in important positions of trust.
He said that King clearly had a significant addiction problem which was recognised by her employers and was working under CCTV surveillance.
The judge said he suspected there had been a degree of “turning a blind eye” because people felt sorry for her and said he was not saying that as a criticism.
The judge said he agreed King had been punished enough as he told her there was “really no way back” into nursing for her.
He handed down a one year conditional discharge and ordered her to pay £80 compensation to Causeway Hospital. Mr McIntosh said that sum had already been lodged with him.