Homeless woman urged to seek help after disorderly behaviour charge

The 50-year-old has been sleeping rough in Maghera.

Homeless woman urged to seek help after disorderly behaviour charge

Magherafelt Magistrates Court.

A 50-year-old woman who lost her home when her partner was imprisoned has been handed a suspended sentence and urged to seek help from the Housing Executive.
 
Brenda McEldowney, with an address given in court as Bonds Hill, Derry, pleaded guilty to two charges of disorderly behaviour and one of criminal damage at Magherafelt Magistrates Court.
 
McEldowney appeared via video link from Antrim Custody Suite, facing charges related to two separate incidents, the first of which took place on May 3 2021.
 
The court heard how police had attended reports of a drunk man and woman causing a disturbance at Mid Ulster Hospital, Magherafelt.
 
When they arrived, the man was no longer present and McEldowney agreed to leave, asking police for a lift to Union Street.
 
On arrival at Union Street, the defendant began to ask members of the public for a cigarette, and on refusal became agressive, telling them to 'f**k off then'.
 
When advised her to stop shouting, she continued,  and police arrested her for disorderly behaviour.
 
Police were called to a further incident on June 8 2021, where they received reports of the defendant causing a disturbance at Magherafelt Bus Station.
 
On arrival they noted McEldowney in an intoxicated state and behaving in a verbally aggressive way towards staff and members of the public.
 
The defendant then gained entry to a toilet block that was undergoing renovation and urinated on the floor.
 
She continued to behave in an aggressive manner towards police and was subsequently arrested for disorderly behaviour and criminal damage.
 
Defence for McEldowney told the court she had profound problems with alcohol, but had recently achieved some level of settled living with her partner in a Housing Executive property in Kilrea.
 
Following difficulties with a neighbour, her partner was arrested and imprisoned. While he was in prison, his brother reported to the Housing Executive that he was no longer in the property.
 
Due to the previous difficulties, he requested they terminate the tenancy of the house, and when asked for her consent to vacate the property, McEldowney agreed.
 
She had assumed the couple would be offered fresh accommodation when her partner was released from prison.
 
The court heard how the defendant and her partner were now homeless, and sleeping on benches around Maghera, with McEldowney carrying all her possessions inside two plastic supermarket bags.
 
Defence said efforts should be made for McEldowney to be presented to the Housing Executive for emergency accommodation as soon as possible and appealed for a custodial sentence to be avoided.
 
District Judge Oonagh Mullan said she would impose a suspended sentence to allow McEldowney to go to the Housing Executive and said if she continued to live on the street, there would be more trouble.
 
She sentenced the defendant to six months' imprisonment, suspended for a period of three years for the charges of disorderly behaviour and criminal damage.

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