Ex-nurse claims unfair dismissal over crystal meth charges
John Benedict Butalid de Lara was fired after admitting to possession of the drug in 2014
A struck-off nurse who lost his job after gardaí found him in possession of crystal meth has taken an unfair dismissal case against his former employer. File photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire
A struck-off nurse who lost his job after gardaí found him in possession of crystal meth has taken an unfair dismissal case against his former employer.
An Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) heard on Tuesday that Mr de Lara had responsibility for the care of the elderly as part of his job.
He had an unblemished work record over a decade, but was suspended in July 2014 after he appeared before a District Court charged with possession of a controlled drug.
The hospital’s director for nursing, Olivia Sinclair, told the tribunal that Mr de Lara said to a clinical nurse manager on a Monday morning in July 2014 that he could not do his shift that day as he was due in court.
An article on the court case, in which Mr de Lara admitted to possession of crystal meth at a flat on the Marlborough Road in Donnybrook in March of that year, then came to the attention of hospital management.
Ms Sinclair said Mr de Lara admitted to her over the phone that the details of the article were correct. Mr de Lara was then suspended.
He was later dismissed following an investigation and disciplinary procedure conducted by a third party contracted by the hospital.
“Given his role as a staff nurse the trusting relationship going forward was severely damaged,” said Ms Sinclair.
“He obstructed gardaí when he was arrested at the time . . . He put bags of crystal meth into his mouth when gardaí were attempting to seize them,” she said.
Mr de Lara was also investigated by the independent third party for ordering Sudafed under the names of fellow nurses.
While this element was taken into account by the investigator, it was not in itself said to be a determinative factor in his dismissal.
Counsel for Mr de Lara acknowledged that he was struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland this year after being found guilty of gross misconduct in relation to the aforementioned charges, a decision which is now subject to a High Court appeal.
Counsel indicated his client’s belief that the investigation and disciplinary procedure at the hospital was carried out in a “gung-ho” and prejudicial manner.
He said Mr de Lara is claiming for about €85,000 in lost earnings since his dismissal, although this figure is disputed by counsel for the hospital.
Mr de Lara received an annual gross salary in excess of €40,000 prior to his dismissal.
The case has been adjourned until September 6th, when the tribunal will hear testimony from the independent investigator contracted by the hospital.