AN addiction counsellor who forged prescriptions in order to help addicts "get clean" so they could be admitted to the drug treatment centre he ran has been sentenced to six months in jail.
Liam Rooney (26), from Blanchardstown in Dublin, is assistant director and manager of the St James's Camino Residential Centre in Co Meath, which provides treatment for drug addicts.
At a special sitting of Letterkenny District Court in Co Donegal yesterday, Judge Conal Gibbons heard that Rooney was charged with possession of prescription drugs for sale or supply and forging prescriptions.
Garda Olga Tracey told the court that she arrested Rooney after receiving a call from a pharmacy in Claremorris, Co Mayo, on Wednesday evening.
She and other officers followed Rooney's silver BMW car to the McWilliam Park Hotel in the town. Following a search of his hotel room, gardai discovered 240 painkiller tablets worth more than €600 as well as 12 false prescriptions.
Rooney, who is himself a former drug addict, is a qualified addiction counsellor and has been working at the centre for the past seven years.
Defence solicitor Patsy Gallagher told the court that Rooney helped drug addicts detox "outside of office hours".
He said addicts from Dublin came to Rooney as they could not get treatment and knew he could help them "get clean".
Mr Gallagher described his client as an "angel of mercy" who paid for the drugs with his own money and gave them to addicts for free.
"The HSE will not treat the addicts unless they detox. They are given no assistance except for the help they get from my client," he said.
Under cross-examination by his solicitor, Rooney described what he was doing outside of his job at the centre as a "pre-entry course" and said the centre's founder, Fr Denis Laverty, knew nothing about it.
"They (drug addicts) cannot detox on their own so I do a pre-entry course with them off my own bat," Rooney told the court.
He said there are not enough detox beds in Dublin and addicts are desperate to stop taking drugs.
Describing the case as "bizarre", the judge commended Rooney for being "honest and frank". However, he said the matter was very serious.
"Just because you are well-intentioned does not mean you are doing no harm. You could have killed someone because of the best of your intentions."
He sentenced Rooney to six months' imprisonment but released him on his own bond of €500 pending an appeal.
By Cronan Scanlon and Breda Heffernan
Friday August 27 2010
A good samaritan caught operating outside of the law.
Counsellor supplied drugs 'to help addicts get clean'