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Judge slams benefits system for handing alcoholic £800 a month while single mum gets 'pittance'

By George Jackson

Published 28/11/2015

Barney McElholm described the welfare paid to a local alcoholic as
Barney McElholm described the welfare paid to a local alcoholic as "drinking coupons" compared to what he called the "pittance" paid to the single mother

A judge has blasted the benefits system as ludicrous for paying an alcoholic £800 a month - but giving just £70 a week to a single mother.

Barney McElholm described the welfare paid to a local alcoholic as "drinking coupons" compared to what he called the "pittance" paid to the single mother.

He was speaking during the sentencing at the Magistrate's Court in Londonderry of a 31-year-old unemployed man who admitted committing disorderly behaviour in Altnagelvin Hospital's accident and emergency department on February 7 and September 18 of this year.

Ryan Robinson, from Foyle Crescent in Newbuildings, was described by his solicitor as being a chronic alcoholic.

A prosecution solicitor told the court that on the first incident Robinson arrived in the hospital in a highly intoxicated condition.

He ran through cubicles in the accident and emergency department and because of his behaviour the police were called by medical staff.

Robinson ignored several police warnings to moderate his behaviour and he continually swore at the officers in front of patients.

The police managed to remove him from the hospital but as they drove him home he again verbally abused them.

During the second disorderly behaviour incident members of the ambulance service reported to the police that Robinson was in his home with a pair of scissors and had self harmed.

When the police arrived Robinson refused first aid treatment, swore at the police and walked away. However, officers caught up with him and they were so concerned about his behaviour that they decided to take him to hospital.

Robinson initially refused to get into an ambulance and he threatened violence against and verbally abused the police officers.

They had to draw their batons and eventually persuaded Robinson to get into the ambulance but when he arrived at the hospital he again shouted loudly inside the accident and emergency department and continued to swear at police.

Defence solicitor Keith Kyle said he accepted that by his behaviour Robinson had put his liberty at risk.

Mr Kyle said Robinson was a chronic alcoholic who had a history of self harming.

The District Judge said that in a pre-sentence report prepared by a probation officer for the court, Robinson said he drank himself to sleep every day and when he woke up he again started drinking.

Mr McElholm said the report also stated that Robinson was in receipt of £800 per month in benefits.

The District Judge said he recently dealt with a case involving a single mother of two children who received "a paltry £140 per fortnight with which she was expected to raise her two young children".

He said: "This man uses his benefits to sit in his bedroom drinking all day and then he goes to the hospital's accident and emergency department.

"I have nothing against the benefits system, it is the way the money is distributed that seems to be completely wrong-headed. I compare his benefits with the single mother's pittance. I would rather she got the bulk of the £800 per month to help her bring up her children", he said.

The District Judge ordered Robinson to pay the Friends of Altnagelvin charity £1,000. He said the money had to be paid by February 19 otherwise he would send Robinson to jail.

"The reason I am ordering the £1,000 is that it will hopefully drastically reduce your ability to buy alcohol", he told Robinson.

The defendant was also banned from entering the grounds of Altnagelvin Hospital unless he's brought to hospital in an emergency situation.

He was released on his own bail of £500 until he's sentenced on February 19.

Belfast Telegraph

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