Derry judge calls for drop-in drug test centres

The Courthouse at Bishop Street in Derry
Image caption A boy, 16, will remain in custody at the Juvenile Justice Centre in Bangor before addressing his drug addiction during a three-week bail period

A district judge in Londonderry has called for the set up of drop-in drug test centres to tackle addiction.

Barney McElholm made the comments on Tuesday at juvenile court during a case involving a 16-year-old drug addict.

The boy admitted to numerous offences including possession of drugs, burglary, assault and criminal damage.

The boy's defence lawyer said the youth's addiction to drugs was instrumental in his offending and requested that sentencing be adjourned.

His plea was accepted and the schoolboy was granted bail and a three-week opportunity to address his addiction before being sentenced in September.

The court had heard that the 16-year-old had admitted possessing Xanax, pregablin and cannabis on 12 June.

'He needs to get off drugs'

Judge McElholm said someone in authority with a "modicum of intelligence" needs to provide drug facilities that courts can remand people to so they can receive the relevant medical aid and begin the recovery process.

He added that such centres, where hair, saliva and blood can be tested in a less invasive way, were needed.

The judge said that the absence of the Northern Ireland power-sharing government, which collapsed in 2017, was contributing to a financial shortfall for authorities.

"If our political institutions were up and running, I have little doubt things would be changed in a useful way.

"This young man needs to get off drugs and being in custody gives him some respite but that is not a long-term solution."