A PHARMACIST systematically stole drugs from his employer over a nine-month period.

Blackburn magistrates heard Hussnen Abbas repeatedly over-ordered boxes of diazepam and temazepam which he then passed on to others.

Abbas, 28, of The Paddock, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to two charges of theft by employee and two charges of possessing prescription drugs with intent to supply them to others.

He was sent on bail to Preston Crown Court to be sentenced on January 28 after the magistrates ruled their powers of punishment were insufficient.

Samantha Hayward, prosecuting, said Hussain had repeatedly over-ordered the drug while working at various branches of Boots the Chemist.

Investigators for the company had identified 252 boxes of temazepam and 36 boxes of diazepam which had been taken from 16 stores.

"There was clearly a great deal of planning involved, a significant breach of trust and a great deal of loss incurred by his employer," said Miss Hayward.

Julian King, defending, said there was confusion over the value of the drugs taken by his client, a qualified pharmacist.

"Despite that we accept it would be more suitably dealt with at the Crown Court," said Mr King.