Shamed nurse who stole drugs worth £1k avoids prison
A disgraced top mental health nurse who pleaded guilty to stealing almost £1,000 of amyl nitrite inhalers - also known as 'poppers' - has been ordered to do 80 hours of community service.
Trevor Fleming (52) pleaded guilty last month at Antrim Magistrates Court to stealing seven boxes of the drug from the Northern Health Trust.
The inhalers are used medically to treat heart diseases, but they are also used as a recreational drug by clubbers and to prolong the effects of other drugs, such as cocaine or ecstasy.
It is particularly popular in the gay community, although it is also used by straight couples to enhance the sexual experience.
Fleming, from the Ballydonaghy Road in Crumlin, has already paid that money back in full to the trust. He took one box worth £141 on November 8 last year and another six boxes worth £846 between December 31, 2013 and November 9 last year.
Yesterday a prosecuting lawyer told the court how suspicious nursing staff in the A&E department raised concerns that someone was stealing the inhalers from the fridge, and when police checked CCTV footage Fleming could be seen taking a box.
Regular stock checks were conducted, but regarding the latest box Fleming took, there was no proper record or paperwork of it being prescribed to a patient.
Officers stopped Fleming in the car park of Antrim Area Hospital as he left work that day, said the lawyer, adding that he handed them the stolen box.
Defence solicitor Tony Caher conceded Fleming's crimes were a gross breach of trust and a "terrible fall from grace". After 31 years as a dedicated nurse, Fleming had reached the top of his profession.
Handing over references, Mr Caher said that in all his time as a lawyer he had never seen such an impressive array of references.
He said Fleming had already paid a heavy price for the thefts in that he had suffered the loss of his reputation, his career and a significant drop in his income.
Imposing sentence and commenting that it was a "great loss to the nursing profession", District Judge Alan White said the theft of the inhalers was clearly "a gross breach of trust by a nurse", but he told Fleming "the person who suffered the most is yourself, through the loss of career and income".
The judge echoed Mr Caher's comments in that his references were "as outstanding a set of references as have ever been put before me during my time on the bench".