Derry judge speaks out about anonymity orders in drugs cases

A district judge has told the local magistrates court he grants anonymity orders because “there are people out there who seem to believe if someone is charged with an offence it means they are guilty of it”.

Judge Barney McElholm made the comment as he granted an anonymity order for a man accused of drugs offences.

The man, who cannot be named as a result of the order, is charged with possession of cannabis with intent to supply and simple possession of the class B drug in July last year.

Defence solicitor Seamus Quigley made the application for anonymity on the grounds that his client’s life would be at risk if his details were made public.

Granting the order, District Judge Barney McElholm said it was important people on social networking sites realised “supply can mean handing a joint to another person. People can be charged with supply if they have a bit more than recommended guidelines think is acceptable for personal use”.

The judge added that just because someone is charged with such an offence “doesn’t mean they should be strung up from the nearest lamp post. That is why I grant anonymity orders”.

The case was adjourned for eight weeks and the man will appear in court again on April 11.