Lawyer slams system which denies heroin substitute to 'free' addicts
A barrister has attacked the system which prevents heroin addicts from being prescribed the substitute 'subutex' unless they are still using the class 'A' drug.
Neil Moore told Ballymena Magistrates Court he made the same comments last year when he appeared for the man in the dock, Ryan Loughran, formerly of Ballymena.
Loughran, now with an address at Fenton Crescent, Ballymoney, broke into a house at Cloughmills early on October 20 last year, awakening the male occupant, the court heard.
The man alerted a neighbour and Loughran was chased. Police who went to the scene found him hiding in an unlocked car.
A PSNI Inspector said that when Loughran was arrested, he said, '**** off, you b******s'.
Loughran resisted arrested and on the way to the police vehicle he spat at a constable, saying 'you are nothing but a b******'.
At Coleraine PSNI Station, a ladies watch, stolen from inside the house at Cloughmills, was recovered from the defendant's possession.
The Inspector told the court that after Loughran was charged, he replied, 'I will say in court he is a dirty, hateful lying b******'.
Loughran admitted burglary involving the theft of a watch valued at 40, assaulting a constable and resisting a constable.
Mr. Moore said Loughran had been in custody for about three months and that he had appeared before the court on a number of occasions for almost identical offences.
"The main difficulty for this young man is, and has been for a considerable number of years, addiction to heroin."
In March last year, said counsel, Loughran was sentenced to nine months imprisonment for a series of burglaries.
"The submissions I made on that occasion are in essence to be mirrored today. A strange situation has arisen in that Loughran was still subject to probation when he committed these offences. He was telling the probation officer he craved heroin, he was free (of heroin use] at that stage.
"The system that operates for the prescription of substitute drugs, namely subutex, is that you are only entitled to have that if you are actively taking heroin.
SYSTEM ''DOESN'T MAKE SENSE'
"It does not make sense. If you are clean, you don't get help, if you are taking heroin, you do."
Mr. Moore said the substitute drug would not be available to Loughran on his release from prison. "The current confines of treatment say, 'until you commit another offence we can't help you.
"It is no help to householders to know that because no-one is willing to offer him treatment, it is conceivable, upon release, he is going to break into someone's house, because no-one is willing to prescribe him substitute drugs because he doesn't fall into the relevant category."
Richard Wilson, RM, remarked: "If someone is clean, they won't get subutex, whereas if they have taken heroin they will. The inevitability is that the defendant will commit further offences, get heroin and take heroin in order to get on to the substitute."
SUBSTITUTE ABUSE FEAR
A probation officer told the Magistrate that to be prescribed subutex, a person would have to show he was using heroin.
Mr. Wilson: "ie, you have to commit another offence. Is there a valid and logical reason for that approach?"
The probation officer replied that, in his opinion, a substitute substance could not be handed out because of the fear it would be abused by people not addicted to heroin.
Mr. Moore said that an impasse had been reach. "I made this case 10 months ago and nothing has changed. Probation is told, 'these are the rules' and it is as clear-cut as that."
Counsel said he had no doubt that Loughran 'is going to be back using heroin.'
Urging the Magistrate not to send Loughran to prison, but to impose a probation order, Mr. Moore said that probation at least would afford Loughran some support in the community in his attempt to battle drugs.
Mr. Wilson said: "I would urge anyone with influence in these matters to take them up and then to refer them to someone who makes these rules. It is a ridiculous situation."
He added that, because Loughran had served the equivalent of a six months prison sentence, 'and in the vain hope that some probation intervention is better', he would accede to the lawyer's request.
Loughran was placed on probation for 12 months, a condition of the order being that he receives treatment for drugs dependency.
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