Nurse who brought drugs into prison loses registration

Nurse intended to bring around 40g of cannabis into prison. A fitness-to-practice inquiry also found she failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries with prisoners
Nurse who brought drugs into prison loses registration
The court ruled that the prison where the nurse worked cannot be identified. 

A nurse who admitted supplying controlled drugs into a prison while working there has had her registration cancelled by order of the High Court.

High Court president Ms Justice Irvine granted the cancellation order on Monday to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NWB), represented by solicitor J.P. McDowell.

The judge was told the nurse, who was not in court and not represented, had not appealed against the board's recommendation, subject to court approval, in favour of cancellation.

The nurse was a general nurse employed by the Irish Prison Service at the relevant times. By court order, the prison and a witness involved cannot be identified.

Having pleaded guilty in July 2016 to a charge of supplying a controlled drug into a prison, the nurse received a three-year sentence in late 2016, of which all but three months was suspended on condition she entered into a €500 bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for five years.

Prior to the court hearing, and following the nurse's arrest by gardaí, a formal complaint about her was made in early 2015 to the NWB which lead to a fitness-to-practice committee  inquiry.

It made several findings of misconduct against the nurse including that she had, on one or more unidentified dates around January 8th 2015, failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries when she engaged with one or more prisoners regarding her personal circumstances.

It was also found she had, around the same time, failed to report to prison authorities she had been requested by one or more prisoners to convey illegal and/or controlled drugs into the prison in exchange for money.

It was further found she had, around mid-December 2014, conveyed, on two separate occasions, a quantity of illegal and/or controlled drugs in the prison and had given, or arranged for those to be given, to one or more unidentified prisoners for a financial sum.

A further finding was that she had, while in the vicinity of the prison about January 8th 2015, about 41.4 grams of cannabis herb with the intention of conveying that in the prison or to a person inside the prison by placing it inside or outside the prison, or by throwing or projecting it into the prison. It was further found, on the same date, she had various medications in her staff locker which she knew, or should have known, was inappropriate where some or all of the medications came from the prison pharmacy and was not prescribed to her.

The inquiry found the proven allegations amounted to professional misconduct representing a serious falling short of professional standards and infamous and/or disgraceful conduct.

It noted various mitigating factors, including the nurse had maintained her sobriety since early 2015, had sufficient insight into her situation and had taken extensive remedial steps to address her addiction. It also noted she had participated, without legal representation but assisted by a friend, in the vast majority of the inquiry despite that being difficult for her.

Given the seriousness of the findings, the committee recommended her registration be cancelled and, at a meeting last January, the Board agreed with that proposed sanction. After the nurse did not appeal, the Board applied to the High Court for confirmation of that.

Today, Ms Justice Irvine said, having reviewed the material before the court, including the transcript of the inquiry, there was no fault in the board's approach and no basis was shown for the court not to confirm cancellation of registration in this case.

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