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Ex-MLA 'will break legs of anyone selling drugs to children' after relative's cannabis ordeal

Boy found stumbling in street after smoking with his friends

By Lisa Smyth

Published 21/09/2016

Adrian Cochrane-Watson
Adrian Cochrane-Watson
Macauley Higginson, who died in the area a few years ago

A former MLA has vowed to "break the legs" of any drug dealers he catches selling killer substances to children.

Former Ulster Unionist MLA and councillor Adrian Cochrane-Watson delivered the threat after a young relative collapsed in the street in Antrim after taking an illegal substance.

Mr Cochrane-Watson, well-known for his no-nonsense comments, also hit out at the response of police to last week's shocking incident.

He said: "What kind of scumbag sells drugs to children? I make no apology for saying that I would break any drug dealer's legs if I caught them selling drugs.

"If I could have got my hands on the dealer, I would have broken the scumbag's legs - and I would probably have got away with it too, because the police were nowhere to be seen."

A 13-year-old boy related to Mr Watson bought cannabis with friends last Wednesday night and went to the grounds of a health centre where they smoked it together.

However, the schoolboy became unwell and stumbled away in the direction of the town's train station, disorientated and deeply distressed, before he was found by members of the public.

They rang for an ambulance and Mr Watson and other family members were alerted to the emergency.

Mr Cochrane-Watson explained: "By the time I got there he was lying on the ground. He was confused and frightened.

"It had been 15 minutes since the ambulance had been rung, so we rang back and asked where it was, only to be told we were in a queue. At that stage, I rang the police - basically to get someone with a bit more knowledge about first aid on the scene - but they told me that there were no officers available.

"This was at 10pm on a Wednesday evening, not closing time on a Saturday. Is this what we have become? Are we a third world country now?"

Mr Cochrane-Watson then rushed his relative to Antrim Area Hospital in the back of his own car.

The outspoken businessman said he was so concerned for the safety of the other teenagers who had taken the drug that he asked some employees to search the area to make sure no one else had fallen ill.

"This all went on very close to where a 16-year-old, Macauley Higginson, collapsed and died a few years ago," he said. "I had no idea what this young lad had taken on Wednesday and I had no idea who else had taken it, but for all I knew it was a bad batch of something and there could be any number of kids out there falling about or even dying on the street. I rang the police the next day to say I was disappointed with their response and I was told that if I didn't like it I could ring the Ombudsman.

"I don't want to do that - I support the police and I don't want to be tying up more time or using public money to investigate a complaint made by me - but at the end of the day I had information about who had taken this drug and who had sold it, and they weren't interested."

Mr Cochrane-Watson said he was contacted by police yesterday after his complaint appeared in a local newspaper.

The father of three, also criticised the boys who bought the drug. "No one forced them to go out and buy the drug and no one forced them to smoke it," he said.

A spokesman for the Ambulance Service said that from the information they were given about the incident, it was prioritised as category B.

He said a crew arrived at the scene just 90 seconds after the 21-minute target to attend category B call-outs.

PSNI Superintendent Emma Bond said police in Antrim and Newtownabbey were "fully committed to dealing with the issue of drugs".

"The circumstances relating to the matters raised by Mr Watson will be reviewed and any learning will be applied in the future," she added.

"The efforts of local police, supported by colleagues in the serious and organised crime branch, are all contributing towards keeping the community in the area safe and drugs being taken off the street."

Belfast Telegraph

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