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Overdose victim's mum ends up in court after confronting man over drugs at her house

By Nevin Farrell

Published 11/06/2016

Jacqueline Burns with a picture of her son Jamie
Jacqueline Burns with a picture of her son Jamie

A mum who lost a son to an accidental drugs overdose was taken to court after confronting a man she believed had brought illegal substances into her home.

Jacqueline Burns, from the Cunningham Way area of Antrim, was furious after discovering that drugs had been brought onto her property while she was on holiday.

The 47-year-old vowed to confront the person she suspected of being involved.

She later flew into a rage after spotting him at a pub, after which his friends surrounded her and she, allegedly accidentally, struck another woman on the nose while pushing out at them.

Ms Burns appeared at Antrim Magistrates Court earlier this week, accepted she was to blame and pleaded guilty to a single charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The court was told that the defendant, who works at a special needs school for children with learning difficulties, was on a night out on September 20 last year when she saw the person she believed had brought drugs into her house.

She lost her temper outside a bar and challenged the man. According to defence lawyer Neil Moore, she became surrounded, lashed out and unintentionally struck the woman on the nose with her palm.

After hearing an account of the event, the court was told that Ms Burns was unable to do community service because she has a son with special needs.

District Judge Alan White said he had no alternative but to impose a three-month jail term, suspended for two years.

He also ordered Ms Burns to pay £250 compensation to the injured woman.

The judge said he had "sympathy" with the defendant, given the circumstances, and accepted it was not her intention to hurt anyone. "But you behaved in a reckless manner," he added.

After the case, Ms Burns told the Belfast Telegraph how her son, Jamie Penny, left a young daughter when he died aged 24 after taking four Tramadol tablets on May 8, 2013.

"He was beautiful," she added. "He would have done anything for me - he was the best lad. Even though he took drugs, he wouldn't have taken anything from you."

Jamie developed a drugs problem aged 15 and was in and out of treatment centres, but he never managed to conquer his demons.

"He was taking cocaine, meth, ecstasy, anything he could have got his hands on, but he actually died of an accidental overdose of Tramadol," Ms Burns explained.

"He was trying to get his head together, God love him. He had got a flat so that his daughter could stay with him, and he had just got it furnished.

"He was really trying his best. He said to me, 'Mum, I am trying to sort my life out'. He must have thought that the Tramadol would not do him much harm, but it was four tablets that killed him. That just shows you how strong it is.

"He usually went to his friend's house about seven or eight o'clock to watch a DVD, but he had to be home by 11pm.

"He was on an order because he was disorderly because of his drink and his drugs, and police had put bail of 11pm on him, but he wasn't home.

"I spoke to him again at midnight and that was when I knew he was on something.

"I went to the shop and got a phone call from Jamie's phone, and it was this random person telling me had died."

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