Belfast Telegraph

Baby abandoned in Belfast city centre taken into care after drugs pair arrested over child cruelty

The couple pictured slumped in their chairs next to the baby’s pram in a Belfast building
The couple pictured slumped in their chairs next to the baby’s pram in a Belfast building
Police are investigating "suspicious activity involving drugs" after an alleged drug deal took place in front of young children inside a McDonald's restaurant at Donegall Place, Belfast
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A baby which was abandoned beside an unconscious man and woman in Belfast has been taken into care after the couple were arrested for suspicion of child cruelty and possessing drugs.

Last night police confirmed that the man and woman slumping in their chairs in a Belfast building on Tuesday afternoon were arrested following the incident.

The 31-year-old male and 39-year-old female, understood to be the parents of the baby which was left alone in its pram, were taken away by officers on suspicion of cruelty to a child and being in possession of a class B drug.

Concerned staff raised the alarm at around 2pm.

One of the images shows the couple were still "asleep" when officers arrived on the scene, despite efforts to wake them.

Both individuals have been released on police bail pending further inquiries including the results of relevant forensic examinations.

"The baby is being cared for by the relevant agency," a PSNI spokesperson confirmed.

Addiction support worker Tracy Bell expressed disbelief at the awful situation, but she urged people to refrain from passing judgment.

"This incident is shocking and it's absolutely wrong that an innocent child has been caught up in this," she said.

"But a drug user's addiction will always be stronger than the love they have for their own child. These parents are being failed by the health system."

The campaigner, whose brother Gary Cathcart was the first registered heroin death here 21-years-ago, said serious questions need to be asked.

"How was an apparent drug user allowed to go through pregnancy and then give birth without being red-flagged?" she asked. "Where were antenatal, where were social services, where was the health visitor?

"It should never have been allowed to get this far, but our health service is at full capacity."

Ms Bell questioned why Northern Ireland does not have a dual diagnosis facility as she warned she turns away 50 people a day who beg her for help," she added.

"This man and woman could be the one of the thousands of people who have been told no help is available."

Addiction expert Dr George O'Neill warned the "disturbing" incident is "only the tip of the iceberg".

And the west Belfast GP urged everyone in society 'to take a long hard look in the mirror'.

"I agree that the lack of a dual diagnosis facility is a major problem," he said.

"But even more children are subject to abuse and neglect behind closed doors - we need to pay attention to the hidden harm in our society."

He warned that alcohol and prescription drug abuse top the list of reasons children experience some form of abuse.

Meanwhile, police are investigating "suspicious activity involving drugs" after an alleged drug deal took place in front of young children inside a McDonald's restaurant at Donegall Place, Belfast.

A spokesperson for the fast food outlet said staff were initially unaware of the interaction but contacted police when shown a video purporting to show a woman purchasing wraps of heroin in broad daylight.

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