Judge’s concern on sentencing in heroin case

Craigavon Courthouse. INPT21-239.
Craigavon Courthouse. INPT21-239.

A 42-year-old man was told he was contributing to the misery caused by heroin every time he bought the drug.

A judge called for such cases to be heard in the Crown Court because magistrates don’t have the sentencing powers to deal with the problem.

Helder Rocha, Toberhewny Lane Lower, Lurgan, admitted possession of heroin on June 21, 2005.

He was sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for two years, last Wednesday at Craigavon Magistrates Court.

District Judge, Mrs Bernie Kelly, said it was nonsense to prosecute cases like this in a magistrates’ court.

A public prosecutor said that in 2005 a search was carried at the defendant’s home which was then in Portadown.

Six wraps of heroin, valued at about £20 a wrap, foil sheets and a syringe were found in the garage. Rocha said he had purchased them for his own use.

A barrister representing the defendant said he had spent eight of the last ten years in Spain and had returned to this jurisdiction hoping to get better employment than he had in Spain.

Judge Kelly said it was ‘abhorrent to public decency’ to continue to prosecute these cases in a magistrates’ court where they did not have the sentencing powers to make a difference.

The judge told the defendant there was misery attached to heroin such as child pornography and prostitution and he was contributing to this every time he handed over money for the drug.

Judge Kelly said there was only one penalty she could impose but gave him credit for not having committed other offences.