A local pharmacist has been struck off for being dishonest and bringing the profession into disrepute after his business empire collapsed with debts of over £10 million.
Craig Bennett can no longer dispense prescription medicine in Northern Ireland.
However, the 39-year-old businessman, who ran a chemist's shop in Fivemiletown and a string of Mace stores in Fermanagh before going bankrupt when the property bubble burst, is back in business in the Republic of Ireland. He is employed by the Care Pharmacy, which has branches at Ballybay in County Monaghan and Rush in County Dublin.
In June of this year Bennett was struck off by the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland after it found that he had acted dishonestly and brought the profession into disrepute.
He had operated a chemist's shop in Fivemiletown before branching out into retailing, opening Mace supermarkets in Brookeborough, Tempo, Kesh and Enniskillen. In August 2005 he set up Dreemore Developments Ltd. and went into property development. However, when the property bubble burst the company went into administration in February 2009. In February 2011, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Development announced that it had accepted an undertaking from Bennett, disqualifying him from being a company director for 13 years. Under the terms of the agreement Bennett accepted that he was unfit to be a company director. He did not dispute that he misappropriated money from Dreemore Developments, paid himself £374,000 when the company could not afford it and made out cheques and direct debits to the value of £1.4 million which were never paid.
However, he failed to notify the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland of his disqualification. At a Fitness to Practice Committee hearing on June 28, this year, it found that in applying to remain a pharmacist for the year 2011 to 2012 Bennett had given false or misleading information by failing to declare his disqualification. It also found that: "He had acted in a manner that calls into question his honesty, integrity and professional judgment."
It further found that: "By his acts or omissions he has brought the profession into disrepute, failed, on a professional basis, to observe the principles and obligations of the profession and undermined public confidence in the profession."
It concluded: "The Committee was of the view that it would therefore be inappropriate to allow Mr. Craig Eric Bennett to continue to practise as a pharmacist, and that his name should be struck off the Register of pharmaceutical chemists in Northern Ireland."
Subject to Bennett appealing against the ruling, it will take effect from September.
That is also the month when Bennett's registration with the PSI (Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland) in the Republic is up for renewal. He first registered with the PSI on October 1, 2010. The first Care Pharmacy opened a year later, in October 2011.
The PSI has regulations requiring members to make statutory declarations including that they are not an undischarged bankrupt and are not prohibited from being a pharmacist in another state.
A spokesman for the PSI said it could not comment on a specific case.
However, he confirmed that Bennett is listed on the PSI's register as the superintendent and supervising pharmacist at the Care Pharmacy, Lower Main Street, Rush, County Dublin. He is also the superintendent pharmacist for the Care Pharmacy, Ballybay, County Monaghan.
The spokesman explained: "The superintendent pharmacist is the pharmacist in personal control of the management and administration of the sale and supply of medicines within a pharmacy and is the pharmacist with overall responsibility and accountability for the policies in a pharmacy.
"The supervising pharmacist is the pharmacist in whole time charge of the pharmacy, ie. day-to-day management, and is responsible for the operations of a pharmacy. While a pharmacist may act as superintendent for one or more pharmacies, a supervising pharmacist can only act in respect of one pharmacy as they are required to be present in that pharmacy on a consistent and continuous basis. However, one pharmacist may act in both roles in respect of a particular pharmacy," the spokesman added.
The Care Pharmacy web site states: "Care Pharmacy is one of the newest names in pharmacy in Ireland, having commenced trading in October 2011, with our first store opening in Ballybay, County Monaghan.
"At Care Pharmacy we pride ourselves on the quality of our people," it adds.
The PSI spokesman said: "In general terms, pharmacists are required to apply on an annual basis for continued registration and make a number of statutory declarations as part of that process, including that they are fit and competent to practise as a pharmacist; that they are undertaking appropriate continuing professional development and that they abide by the statutory code of conduct for pharmacists. They also have to declare whether they have been restricted or prohibited from practising as a pharmacist in Ireland or any other country and whether they are the subject of any legal or disciplinary proceedings in Ireland or in any other country.
"Under the Act, the PSI Council shall have regard to such declarations in determining whether a person is fit to be registered as a pharmacist," he added.
"A person's fitness to practise as a pharmacist may also be determined under the complaints, inquiries and disciplines provisions of the Pharmacy Act 2007 - the fitness to practise system," the spokesman added.
Further information about this system is available on the PSI website at the following link: http://www.thepsi.ie/gns/making-a-complaint/overview.aspx