Derry Court: Judge praises Rosemount community workers

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

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A judge has praised a local councillor and community workers who help residents in the Rosemount area who are ‘tortured’ by anti-social behaviour.

District Judge Barney McElholm made the comment as 51-year-old James Meenan appeared at the local magistrates court. Meenan, of Meadowview Crescent, pleaded guilty to possession of a screwdriver, disorderly behaviour, and assault on police. He also admitted a charge of a dog attack causing an injury. All the offences were committed on April 26. Derry Magistrates Court heard police were called to an on-going disturbance in Lower Nassau Street and when they arrived Meenan was being restrained. He had an item in his hands and when police restrained him and a screwdriver was seized.

The 51-year-old swung a punch and hit an officer on the back of the head. The police officer was then bitten by Meenan’s dog. He admitted that the dog was his and said he had also been bitten. During police interview he said he was involved in a scuffle with the youths and took a screwdriver off one of them.

He said he waved it at them to scare them off. Defence counsel Nicola Rountree said there were severe difficulties with anti-social behaviour in the area. She handed in a statement from local independent councillor Darren O’Reilly who along with other community workers patrol the area to help residents. Ms Rountree said her client had gone to the aid of his ex-wife in his pyjama’s because she was extremely distressed by the behaviour of the youths. Meenan got into a scuffle with the youths and inadvertently struck the police officer. She also told the court there was no suggestion her client had encouraged the dog to bite the police officer.

Judge Barney McElholm said “I know from sitting in this court the people of Rosemount are absolutely tortured by young people gathering to drink, take drugs and commit anti-social behaviour. I don’t intend that to be a slur on young people in the city, it is only a small minority involved in this but it is sufficient numbers to make life a living hell for people in Rosemount.”

He added: “It is to the credit of people like Darren O’Reilly that give up their own free time to try to help the residents and get the young people along the right path.”

The judge accepted Meenan did not encourage his dog to bite the police officers. He said ‘dogs are highly strung creatures and when there is a commotion they tend to react to that.

“Thank God the days are gone when we have to order the destruction of the dog’.

The judge formally deferred sentencing until June 12 and warned Meenan to commit no further offences.

He also ordered him to bring £500 to court with him on that occasion as a compensation payment for the police officer who received a ‘nasty enough bite.’