Doctor supplied `date rape' pills

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The Independent Online
A HARLEY Street doctor was found guilty today of helping to flood the drugs black market with thousands of so-called "date rape" pills.

Helen Sweeney, 62, escaped jail only because of her age and failing health.

"This is the first time a doctor has been convicted in this country of supplying Rohypnol to the black market," Detective Sergeant Nigel Tilley said after the case at London's Knightsbridge Crown Court.

"There have been a lot of cases in the United States where unsuspecting women have been given these pills, passed out and woken up the next day without immediately realising they have been assaulted.

"It is totally possible some of these Rohypnol tablets which Sweeney illegally prescribed have found their way into the hands of date-rapists, an allegation which has recently become more common in this country," he added.

The court heard that during a two-year plot, with a middle man still on the run, the GP wrote out bogus prescriptions in return for occasional backhanders.

With the help of her missing partner-in-crime, these were then used to get hold of more than 38,000 controlled tablets, with a black-market value of up to pounds 200,000.

Among them were nearly 10,000 Rohypnol pills, which can fetch at least pounds 5 each. The remaining pills were mostly strong painkillers.

Sweeney, of Churchill Gardens Court, Pimlico, south west London, showed little reaction as she was convicted of one charge of conspiracy to obtain controlled drugs between January 1995 and February last year, and two counts of supplying some of them.

Passing sentence, Judge Richard Walker told her: "You have betrayed your profession and society at large."

He said that if it had not been for her age and ill health he would probably have sent her to jail for at least five years. However, as an act of mercy he imposed an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

But he ordered his comments and the case papers to be passed to the General Medical Council - the regulatory body for doctors - which has the power to strike Sweeney off and ban her from practising.

The court heard that in total the GP handed over 74 bogus prescriptions to accomplice Hessan Hassan, who has since fled to the Middle East.

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