Deadly heroin trade will not be allowed to spread in Northern Ireland, judge vows
A deadly trade in heroin will not be allowed to develop in Northern Ireland, a senior judge vowed today.
Mr Justice Weir pledged everything possible would be done to stop the drug's spread after being told it has caused a number of recent deaths in Belfast.
He said: "We have not so far had the problem of heroin that other jurisdictions have suffered, and we are not going to have it if the courts can do anything to prevent it."
Earlier the judge was told how police have mounted an undercover operation since the start of the year targeting alleged dealers in the city.
One suspect, 44-year-old Joanne Phelan, was arrested last week and accused of arranging to sell £25 heroin wraps to officers over the phone.
She faces a total of six charges involving being concerned in the supply of and offering to supply Class A drugs, and arranging to acquire criminal property during January and February.
Phelan, of no fixed address, was granted High Court bail to live with her mother in Omagh, Co Tyrone.
Prosecution counsel opposed her release, claiming she may continue to sell drugs to fund her own addition.
Citing the need to protect others he added: "Associated to that is the police concern that over the last number of months there have been a number of deaths in Belfast in relation to people taking heroin."
Defence barrister Luke Curran revealed that Phelan had received treatment for her addiction in the past.
He stressed that his client is not accused of any organisational role in the trade.
But referring to the prosecution case, Mr Justice Weir told him: "She wasn't just selling the stuff in the ordinary way, she was also involved in a telesales operation."
The judge also hit out at the drug bosses who let others do their work.
"They sit in the safety of their own homes enjoying the fruits of the disgusting trade they carry on and use patsies like Ms Phelan because they know she's vulnerable," he said.
"The organisers are very careful to make sure they don't go to collect the drugs or sell them. They just sit at home stuffing the money under their mattresses."
Granting bail, he imposed a night-time curfew and electronic tagging conditions.
Phelan was also ordered to seek medical help from her GP within seven days.
Belfast Telegraph Digital