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Drug worker who forged prescriptions

AN addiction counsellor who forged prescriptions for drug users has been sentenced to six months in prison.

Liam Rooney (26), from Blanchardstown in Dublin, was found with 240 painkillers worth more than €600, as well as 12 false prescriptions, when gardai searched his hotel room.

Rooney is the assistant director and manager of the St James's Camino Residential Centre in Co Meath, which treats drug addicts.

He is a qualified addiction counsellor and has worked at the centre for seven years.

At Letterkenny District Court in Co Donegal yesterday, 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.

Following a search of his McWilliam Park Hotel room, gardai discovered Rooney, a former drug addict, with the tablets and the prescriptions.

Rooney's defence solicitor Patsy Gallagher told the court his client helped drug addicts detox "outside office hours".

He said addicts came to Rooney because they couldn't get treatment and knew he could help them "get clean".

Mr Gallagher described Rooney as an "angel of mercy" who paid for the drugs with his own money and gave them to addicts for free.

Under cross-examination by his solicitor, Rooney 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.

Describing the case as "bizarre", Judge Conal Gibbons commended Rooney for being "honest and frank" but said the matter was very serious.

"You could have killed someone because of the best of your intentions," he said.

He sentenced Rooney to six months' imprisonment but released him on his own bond of €500 pending an appeal.

hnews@herald.ie