District judge calls for a ‘lock down facility’ to treat addicts

A judge has said there needs to be a ‘lock down facility’ in the north for the ‘treatment of seriously addicted people’.

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 12:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 1:14 am
Londonderry Courthouse

District Judge Barney McElholm made the comment as a man accused of drugs offences appeared in court for allegedly breaching his bail by consuming drugs.

Derry Magistrate’s Court heard that the man, who cannot be named due to an anonymity order, was allegedly observed by police sniffing white powder off a table after they attended his home.

He was taken to hospital following his arrest and on his return to custody became ‘unresponsive’ it was claimed as a result of the substance he had consumed.

The court was told the defendant was arrested for breach of curfew. Following a search of his home, police also allegedly found diazepam, pregabalin and a tablet device.

As part of his bail conditions, the defendant was also banned from possessing or consuming non-prescribed drugs and from possessing a mobile phone. The man is currently on bail for drugs and driving offences allegedly committed between March and September, last year.

An investigating officer said the defendant was still unfit to be interviewed in relation to the drugs found in his property some 19 hours after his arrest and there are no new charges arising as yet.

Opposing bail, the officer said the defendant has breached the conditions on a number of occasions in the past and has a history of committing new offences whilst on bail.

He also claimed that the man is ‘clearly addicted to drugs’ and there is a risk he will commit further offences.

Defence counsel Stephen Chapman said his client had an appointment arranged with HURT, adding that when people have addictions there are going to be incidents of relapse.

Judge McElholm said he ‘appreciates there are resource issues and there are many, many other priorities for the health service but there really needs to be some joined up thinking between the Department of Justice, the criminal justice system as a whole, the Department of Health and maybe even the Department of Communities.

“It needs to be an inter-governmental priority to create a lock down facility where people can be treated.”

“I am aware of allegations that drugs are rife in prison. I don’t know if that is true but there needs to be somewhere to give these people a fighting chance to get off drugs.”

The judge said he had been ‘banging on about this’ for the last ten to 15 years, but ‘anyone with the power to do anything about it aren’t listening. They don’t see it as a priority and the situation is just getting worse and worse all the time’.

He refused to release the defendant on bail and remanded him in custody until a later date.