Chief Justice Catherine Holmes and daughter
Chief Justice Catherine Holmes and daughter

Daughter of state’s top judge convicted on multiple charges

The doctor daughter of Queensland's top judge forged medical scripts of other hospital doctors to illegally obtain opioid drugs to treat her debilitating back pain.

Dr Rosemary Holmes-Preston, 26, the daughter of Chief Justice Catherine Holmes, today pleaded guilty to four charges, including forgery, fraud and drug possession.

Holmes-Preston, who worked as a junior doctor at The Prince Charles Hospital, used prescription scripts that appeared to have been written by four hospital doctors.

She presented the forged scripts on 14 occasions over a seven-month period, going to a pharmacy near her home and showing her own driver's licence for identification.

Holmes-Preston told the pharmacist she was collecting the opioid pain medication, Tapentadol, on behalf of others, Brisbane Magistrates Court was told.

However the pharmacist became suspicious and contacted the hospital.

When police went to Holmes-Preston's Red Hill home with a search warrant on May 23, she immediately admitted to obtaining medication with forged scripts.

Dr Rosemary Holmes-Preston, daughter of Chief Justice Catherine Holmes, outside court today. Picture: Peter Wallis
Dr Rosemary Holmes-Preston, daughter of Chief Justice Catherine Holmes, outside court today. Picture: Peter Wallis

Holmes-Preston today pleaded guilty to forging and uttering a medical script between October 10 last year and May 20 this year.

She also pleaded guilty to fraudulently gaining a quantity of prescribed medication for herself, and unlawful possession of a controlled drug on May 23.

Barrister Ruth O'Gorman said the young doctor had not committed the offences out of greed or avarice, but out of her desperation to manage debilitating pain.

Shortly before graduating from University of Queensland in 2017, Holmes-Preston was diagnosed with the sleep condition narcolepsy, which ended her dream of becoming an orthopaedic surgeon.

In 2019 she was diagnosed with the rare and incurable condition Crohn's disease and developed stomach pain.

Over following months Holmes-Preston was prescribed high levels of steroids, which affected her ability to sleep and gave her hallucinations, and she stopped working last September.

Holmes-Preston, who had been named The Prince Charles Hospital's junior house officer of the year in 2018, then experienced severe back pain.

Ms O'Gorman said it was not until December last year that she found out an MRI showed she had a number of spinal fractures.

Facing difficulty in getting specialist help, Holmes-Preston made the "regrettable decision" to manage her own pain with an opioid drug, using forged scripts, she said.

The court heard that in April, Holmes-Preston told a psychologist about her concerns about her addiction to the painkiller.

Ms O'Gorman said Holmes-Preston, who had no criminal history, was incredibly remorseful and highly embarrassed about the offending.

She said the offending was unsophisticated, as she always went to the same pharmacy, which had CCTV footage of her arriving in her own car, and she showed her own driver's licence.

Chief Justice Catherine Holmes
Chief Justice Catherine Holmes

On July 23 Holmes-Preston gave an undertaking to the Medical Board of Australia that she would not practise this year.

She is expected to face a disciplinary investigation.

In a character reference, Kerri Mellifont QC said she had seen how devastated the "kind, intelligent" doctor had been about committing the offences.

She said Holmes-Preston, whom she had known since she was young, felt she had let down the community, her family and herself.

"I have no doubt that what Rosie has had to endure over the last few years would have broken others much earlier," Dr Mellifont wrote.

The prosecutor said Holmes-Preston had abused the trust placed in her, by using the names of other doctors, for her own end.

Brisbane magistrate Anthony Gett said there was a level of dishonesty in the offending, but it was born out of desperation.

He accepted Holmes-Preston was remorseful and embarrassed about her behaviour and noted she had since taken steps to rehabilitate herself.

"Whilst unsophisticated offending, you still used your knowledge as a doctor to be able to perpetrate the offences," Mr Gett said.

He said when any professional used another professional's script pads to help perpetrate an offence, a deterrent sentence was called for.

"It's a regulated industry," Mr Gett said.

"You should not take advantage of the regulations surrounding opioid medications, even in circumstances where you were desperate to get an answer for your pain issues."

He fined Holmes-Preston $1500, but did not record a conviction.

There was no reference in court to Holmes-Preston being the daughter of the Chief Justice and academic Dr Arthur Preston.

Justice Holmes declined to comment.

Ms O'Gorman said Holmes-Preston had the full support of her family and friends.

Originally published as Daughter of state's top judge convicted on multiple charges

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