Crime: ‘Courts are not the best way to deal with huge problem’-Judge

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66
Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

A judge has said the criminal courts ‘as they currently stand are not the best way of dealing with the huge problem’ of domestic violence.

District Judge Barney McElholm made the comment as 20-year-old Jamie Lee Campbell applied for bail at the local magistrates court.

Campbell, of Beaufort Drive, is charged with attempting to choke his girlfriend with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The charge relates to an alleged incident on July 18.

A defence solicitor said his client was applying for bail because the alleged injured party has withdrawn her complaint and there is now effectively no evidence against him.

It was alleged the 20-year-old put his hands around his girlfriend’s neck and made it difficult for her to breathe. Young children were in the house at the time of the alleged incident.

Opposing bail, an investigating officer said there is a domestic violence history between Campbell and the alleged injured party.

He added that police believe the 20-year-old will not adhere to bail conditions and continue to contact the woman, causing her ‘undue distress’.

A prosecutor said the Public Prosecution Service would require a full file to allow them to make a decision about whether the alleged injured party would be summonsed to attend court in the future.

Defence counsel Eoghan Devlin applied for his client to be released on bail with ‘onerous conditions’.

He said there is now no evidence against Campbell and he could spend months in custody ‘for nothing’.

However, District Judge Barney McElholm told the court ‘I would rather that than sitting here asking why did I not protect this young woman who has been killed or seriously injured by this man’.

The judge said that ‘criminal courts as they stand are not the nest way of dealing with the huge problem of domestic violence. We have to come at it from a different direction because for whatever reason injured party’s statements are being withdrawn’.

Judge McElholm said he would only grant bail if the 20-year-old provided an address outside the city.

He added that ‘this young lady doesn’t appear to be taking on board she has three children and her duty first and foremost is to protect them, their physical and psychological health and well-being by not having them exposed to incidents of domestic violence’.

The bail application was adjourned and Campbell will appear in court again via videolink on September 1.