Court fines vet €10k for impedingofficials

A dual-qualified pharmacist and vet has been convicted of impeding officials from the Department of Agriculture as they sought veterinary prescription records from his place of work. He was yesterday fined €10,000.

Dan McCarthy, who owns the Classes Lake pharmacy near Ballincollig, Co Cork, was also directed to make a contribution to the State’s legal costs, with Judge James McNulty stating that white-collar offenders could not be seen to be dealt with any differently to anyone else.

McCarthy, who pleaded guilty, appealed against the severity of penalties imposed. A bond of €10,000 was fixed.

Bandon District Court heard McCarthy faced two charges, that between January 1 and February 11, 2011, he had impeded an authorised officer of the department in that he removed veterinary prescriptions from the premises; and, further, on February 15, 2011 he failed to produce veterinary records.

A parallel investigation by the Pharmaceutical Society had resulted in McCarthy’s company receiving a conviction.

Alice Fawsitt, prosecuting, said the department officer had attended the Classes Lake pharmacy seeking veterinary records in respect of named customers.

The information was not there and he left a list of what was required, but when he returned on February 15 no records were made available.

The officer had also sought prescription records for the previous month of January and had been informed by a staff member they had been removed from the premises.

Solicitor Barry Creed said the records had been removed due to an audit that was taking place and had not been returned as quickly as they could have been.

He said the records were subsequently provided to the Pharmaceutical Society, while Ms Fawsitt said the department received one copy of one prescription.

Mr Creed said his client had had no interaction with the department since then and had not been the subject of any complaint over the same period.

He said McCarthy employs 26 people and a conviction could have “catastrophic effects professionally”, and a knock-on effect for employment.

The court heard that conviction on the charges carry a penalty of fines up to €5,000 and/or up to six months imprisonment.

Judge James McNulty noted that McCarthy had pleaded guilty, had no previous convictions, and had a record of professional and personal achievement.

However, Judge McNulty said there was a responsibility on government to oversee and regulate the use of pharmaceutical products in the agricultural sector so as to ensure the integrity of Irish food produce.

He said McCarthy’s dual qualifications were to his credit but also to his detriment in that he should have been doubly aware of his statutory obligations, particularly with regards to regulatory supervision and inspection.

“The court takes these matters very seriously,” said Judge McNulty, referring to them as “grave matters”.

“The court cannot extend leniency to this man to any great degree,” he said.

“At times there is a perception that white-collar crime is different and where an offender is professional, he gets off light. That should not be so.”

The court heard legal costs of some €15,000 had been accrued in the case on the State’s part and Judge McNulty said the defendant would help pay that to defray the costs of prosecution.

“The one striking feature of this case is this man is an employer, a leader of his team, and his conduct ought to have been exemplary, and it was not,” said the judge.

He said McCarthy was “fortunate not to be taken away today”.


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