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Former heroin addict loses court bid over treatment centre cuts

By Alan Erwin

Published 09/01/2016

Charles Boyle (38) challenged the Department of Justice's decision to reduce financial support to the Railway Street Addiction Service, which at one stage faced closure
Charles Boyle (38) challenged the Department of Justice's decision to reduce financial support to the Railway Street Addiction Service, which at one stage faced closure

A recovering heroin addict has lost his legal battle over funding cuts at a Co Antrim treatment centre.

Charles Boyle (38) challenged the Department of Justice's decision to reduce financial support to the Railway Street Addiction Service, which at one stage faced closure.

But a High Court judge yesterday rejected claims that the move was unlawful because of an alleged failure to consult with Mr Boyle and others who use the facilities in Ballymena.

Mr Justice Treacy said: "This is an example of a case where a rational decision has been reached by a lawful process."

The court heard Mr Boyle started using drugs as a teenager and became addicted to heroin after leaving school at 18.

Following a troubled period, he left Ballymena and moved to Glasgow. A first attempt to get himself clean after the death of his mother failed, he believes, because of a lack of counselling support in the Scottish city.

In 2005 he returned home and went to the Railway Street facility, run by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Since becoming involved with the centre Mr Boyle has not been involved in any further trouble.

The court heard that a letter from the Northern Trust in November 2014 informed him of the department's intention to cut funding to the service.

Although the centre was expected to shut last year, it has since secured enough resources to continue running for another two years.

However, services at the clinic are expected to be severely scaled back.

Lawyers representing the recovering addict sought a declaration that the alleged lack of consultation was unlawful.

They claimed he had a legitimate expectation as one of a small number of individuals directly affected by the decision.

However, dismissing his challenge, the judge held there were no special features to the case which would render the move "unconscionable".

He said: "The fact is that every policy change will affect an identifiable group of people, and some of these groups may be very small, focused groups.

"Satisfying the condition that an applicant belongs to such a group is not of itself sufficient to establish that an administrative action disfavouring it is 'outrageous' or an 'abuse of power' in relation to that group or any member of it."

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