Northern Ireland

Judge in plea over treatment services for drug addicts

A High Court judge has said treatment services for drug addicts in Northern Ireland are unsatisfactory.

Mr Justice Weatherup's assessment came as he refused bail to a heroin addict.

Robert Gannon, 26, of Dunvale Close, Londonderry, faced charges of robbery, fraud by false representation and converting criminal property.

Mr Justice Weatherup said the approach to helping those in and out of prison was "short-sighted".

He said: "I know this is a question of priorities, but perhaps laying kerbstones around country roads could wait while we try to address these more pressing problems some of our fellow citizens have to put up with."

The court heard Mr Gannon returned to Derry after becoming addicted to heroin during a period living in Dublin.

According to the prosecution, his compliance with treatment services in prison has not been confirmed.

After receiving this information, the judge said: "What is striking to me in respect of this case is how unsatisfactory our health and care system is for people who are in this position."

He said that although there was "an obvious need to address the addiction" of some prisoners "the services available don't seem able to do that".

'Short-sighted'

"In the prison they don't have the funds and it's extraordinary (when) the incidents of addiction are so high amongst prisoners that there has to be a waiting list," he added.

Mr Justice Weatherup noted that Mr Gannon would also face a waiting list to get on to a community addiction programme if released.

"Is that helping him? Certainly not," he said.

"It's very short-sighted that these things aren't addressed more urgently."

Refusing to release Mr Gannon on bail, he added: "I can't grant him bail because I feel because of his addiction and lack of treatment that I think is available, he is liable to revert to his addiction.

"The safest place for present purposes is that he remains in the limited treatment he is receiving in the prison service."