Antrim infested with hard drugs and kids of 11 hooked, claims MLA
Heroin, cocaine and crystal meth are being peddled on the streets of Antrim and children as young as 11 are hooked on hard drugs, it has been claimed.
An Ulster Unionist MLA has said the lethal and highly addictive drugs are widely available in every housing estate in the town.
Adrian Cochrane-Watson said children barely out of primary school are even using Class A drugs, which he said are easier to buy than a bottle of booze.
And he called on the courts to take a zero tolerance stance when dealing with anyone found guilty of possession of drugs.
"There was recently a case up in court where a fast food delivery guy was fined £250 for possession of cocaine," he said.
"He claimed the cocaine was for personal use but you do have to question whether that was true.
"Then you hear of another guy who appeared in the same court being fined £350 for not having car tax. Where is the deterrent for drug dealers?
"I would like to see a zero tolerance approach by the judiciary, even for possession of drugs and not just for drug dealers; we should be handing out proper punishments.
"It shouldn't be enough for a person to claim that they have the drug for their own personal use, it shouldn't be acceptable to have illegal drugs on you at all."
Mr Cochrane-Watson said an increasing number of parents are contacting him with concerns over the availability of Class A drugs in the town.
"Parents are coming to me on a weekly basis," he explained.
"I have also spoken to drug counsellors who are working with parents of young children, as young as 11 or 12, who are using drugs.
"And we're not just talking cannabis here - we are talking about hard Class A drugs.
"Meth, cocaine and heroin are all available in all the estates in the town, anywhere you want to get them, you can.
"I think it would also be very naïve of a school to think there isn't an issue with drugs."
The South Antrim MLA continued: "When you're 15, 16 or 17 and you want to go out, it is actually easier to get drugs than it is to get drink.
"A drug dealer doesn't care what age you are and the drugs are so cheap now, whereas it is much more difficult to get alcohol when you are under-age.
"Off licences challenge people over their age, but drug dealers don't care.
"The health implications of these drugs are also extremely serious and the burden to the health service cannot be ignored.
"We need to take urgent action to address the situation."