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Recovering heroin addict loses legal battle over Co Antrim treatment centre funding cuts

By Alan Erwin

Published 08/01/2016

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

 Charles Boyle, 38, was challenging the Department of Justice's decision to reduce financial support which at one stage left the Railway Street Addiction Service facing closure.

 But a High Court judge today rejected claims that the move was unlawful due to an alleged failure consult with him and others who use the facilities in Ballymena.

 Mr Justice Treacy said: "The present case is an example of an ordinary 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 the age of 18.

 Following a troubled period he left Ballymena and moved to Glasgow.

 A first effort to get himself clean after the death of his mother failed, he believes, due to a lack of counselling support in Glasgow.

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

 Since becoming involved with the centre he said he has not been involved in any further trouble.

 Mr Boyle stated that a letter from the Trust in November 2014 informed him of the Department's intention to stop funding 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 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 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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