Blood packets used by medical students at Cork Institute of Technology were brought home by a staff member and burned in a barrel, only to be dragged by a dog on to the front lawn of a house - sparking an investigation that resulted in the institute being convicted and fined €2,000 today.
The eleven packets originally came from the Irish Blood Transfusion Service and were used at CIT for work with medical students. A CIT employee decided to take home the empty packets which had blood residues in them and burn them in a 45-gallon barrel outside his house in North Cork.
A dog pulled a few of the partly burnt packets on to the front lawn of the house next door to the employee.
An autoclave in CIT was normally used to apply extreme heat to such materials which would effectively turn them into ordinary refuse but this was not working at the time.
Solicitor for CIT, Sion Williams, said: "An employee had taken it on himself to dispose of them. It is with regret that CIT are before the court today. We acknowledge the seriousness of the allegations and offer our apologies. We have fully co-operated with the council (Cork County Council prosecuted the case).
"We have entered a guilty plea at the first opportunity. We have reviewed our procedures in relation to the incident and have tightened those up. Essentially it is now a belt and braces procedure to ensure it cannot and will not happen again."
Judge David Riordan imposed a €2,000 fine and ordered CIT to pay €2,800 in costs and expenses.
The judge said in relation to the belt and braces approach to the new procedures with blood packets that this was how it should be. He also said it would be a pity if what happened was to have any adverse effect on educational work with medical students at the institute.
"CIT is an excellent institution with an excellent reputation and has developed wonderful things for this city in the last 35 years or so," he said.
Judge Riordan said the fine was intended to deter CIT or others who might engage in lax procedures with such materials in the future.
Cork County Council solicitor, Kevin O’Leary, said the blood products had been supplied to the CIT by the IBTS and were tested negative for any infectious disease beforehand.
Mr O’Leary said the home-owner who found the remains of the packets on his front lawn alerted the local litter warden and an investigation was initiated. The strict registering and identification of the packets by the IBTS enabled them to trace them back to CIT.
CIT pleaded guilty to two counts related to transferring control of waste products to a person who was not appropriate under the Waste Management Act on May 11, 2007.