Derry judge criticises the government over its failure to establish halfway houses in NI

Derry man jailed for assault on mother and father

Derry courthouse.

A Derry judge has criticised the government for failing to set-up halfway houses in NI for recovering addicts while dealing with the case of a local alcoholic accused of a serious assault.

District Judge Barney McElholm said that instead people with addictions are ‘coughed’ back out into society where they ‘constantly’ breach bail conditions.

Paul Farren, 30, of Baltimore House on Bridge Street, appeared at Derry Magistrate’s Court by way of video link from Maghaberry prison for a bail application.

He is charged with three counts of assaulting police officers, attempting to wound a man with intent to do him grievous bodily harm, possession of an offensive weapon, namely a crutch, with intent to commit an indictable offence and criminal damage to a crutch.

The court heard that the defendant is a ‘hopeless alcoholic’ with 123 previous convictions.

He has breached bail over 20 times and had a similar amount of warrants issued for his arrest.

Defence solicitor Seamus Quigley said alcohol is ‘destroying’ Farren, according to his ex-partner and social services.

He suggested that alcoholics should still be able to get bail as ‘people can change’.

Judge McElholm accepted that ‘they can and do’.

He added that ‘those who govern us’ should have halfway houses for addicts wherein they can avail of specialist therapy and help.

It would assist in addressing alcohol problems, he said, and the issue of people constantly breaching bail.

The judge said: “But instead they’re coughing people out and given a bus pass to head home.

“It clearly doesn’t work and you wonder why anyone thought it would.”

Judge McElholm made reference to an idea someone had aired about creating a wave machine to stop immigrants from crossing the English Channel from France to England.

It says something about the person who came up with it, he said, when they would consider doing that to a group of desperate people.

Judge McElholm said when it’s ‘politically expedient’ people come up with bizarre ideas but when it comes to the day-to-day running of society they can’t come up with the idea of a halfway house for addicts.

He added that there are addiction centres in Derry which are well run but there aren’t enough of them meaning services are ‘totally and utterly inadequate’.

Considering bail, he said it is ‘fair enough’ if Farren has changed, but if he hasn’t it’s possible he could seriously assault someone again because he has turned to drink.

Mr Quigley requested bail to an address on Abercorn Road with conditions attached.

In response, Judge McElholm said it is only ‘a hop, skip and a jump’ from John Street where witnesses and complainants would be located.

The defence solicitor said it won’t be an issue if he doesn’t drink and John Street is a main thoroughfare where police would easily spot him.

Farren was granted his own bail of £500 but Judge McElholm said it must be to an address outside the city that is approved by the police in advance.

He was ordered to attend with his GP, if possible, in relation to his alcohol dependency.

The defendant will have a curfew of 8pm-7am, will be electronically tagged and must have no contact with witnesses or the alleged injured party in the case.

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