A nurse who “destroyed” her career by stealing medication to feed her hidden addictions escaped jail yesterday but was ordered to complete community service.
Deputy District Judge Liam McStay told 28-year-old Stacey Bryars her series of thefts were “very grave” and represented a breach of trust, but that because of her guilty plea and remorse, he was imposing the 100 hours community service order as well as a £100 fine.
At an earlier hearing at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court Bryars, from the Sheetrim Road, Drumhillery in Armagh, pleaded guilty to nine counts of theft all relating to her stealing powerful sedative zopiclon and the painkiller co-codamol on various dates between September 22 and October 21 last year.
A prosecuting lawyer on Wednesday told the court that last September, staff at Ward Two North in Craigavon Area Hospital noticed medication was missing from a store and that it was being taken on weekdays only.
On October 14 two covert cameras were installed and footage showed Bryars unlocking a cabinet, taking medication and putting it in her pocket, said the lawyer.
Police were contacted to investigate and when officers arrested Bryars at her home address, she admitted she had a zopilclone and codeine addiction after legitimately being prescribed the medication.
Defence barrister Aaron Thompson accepted this was a “breach of trust case,” revealing that Bryars had been working as a trainee nurse and used a key to open the cabinet to feed her addiction.
He described how she had developed depression and insomnia and after a miscarriage in March last year, her codeine prescription was gradually increased and it was then that she developed a dependency.
The theft arose when her prescription was halted, so suffering from withdrawal symptoms, she went to the ward drug cabinet.
Having already faced a disciplinary hearing with the trust, Mr Thompson submitted her professional life “had been destroyed” and she was now not going to get her qualification as a nurse.
According to the reports, there was no likelihood of Bryars reoffending as other medications were now in place, she is co-operating with the community addiction team and her family knew of the problems so could provide support.
She had been warned at a previous court this was a grave matter but the barrister asked the court not to impose immediate custody.
Describing her offences as a “wake-up call,” Judge McStay said she had suffered the shame of what happened as well as the additional penalty of ramifications in her employment and her employability going forward.
Imposing the fine and CSO, the judge warned Bryars that if she did not fulfil the directions of the community service team she would be brought back to court and would go to jail.