Belfast drugs den trio warned to tackle addiction or face going to jail
Three people arrested in a drugs den in east Belfast have avoided being sent to jail after a judge urged them to address their addictions.
Judge Stephen Fowler said yesterday that society would benefit from the trio tackling their addictions with the help of probation - but warned any breaches would result in a prison sentence.
Peter Carlisle and Ashling Graham, both 40 and from Cedarmount in Antrim, appeared at Belfast Crown Court along with Edward Mongan (28), from Sandown Park in Ballymena.
All three were arrested by police who searched a flat at Haig Street on the evening of June 8 last year under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The property - described as a "drugs den" by prosecution barrister Mark Farrell - was locked and police had to force their way into the living room, where the three defendants were found.
During the search police found 15 plastic wraps containing a total amount of 11g of heroin.
Other items in the flat included heroin burned on a spoon, which Mr Farrell said indicated the class A drug had just been consumed.
Mr Farrell said the heroin found totalled around £1,000 and a further £225 in cash was found on Mongan, whose fingerprints were located on some of the plastic wrap bags.
The prosecutor said that when the phones of all three were analysed there was evidence which showed Carlisle supplied heroin between friends/associates.
The two men and woman were arrested and, while all three admitted they had been taking heroin on the day of the search, all three denied possessing heroin with intent to supply.
While all three admitted a charge of possessing heroin, Carlisle also pleaded guilty to offering to supply the class A drug.
A barrister representing Graham said that last summer his client and her partner were effectively homeless, but they now had a home in Antrim. He said that since the move Graham has been trying to turn her life around.
Defence barrister Joel Lindsay, representing Carlisle, said his client has been a drug addict for 26 years, but that last summer's arrest was a turning point and he is now drug-free.
Mr Lindsay also spoke of the stability in Carlisle's life since he moved away from Belfast to Antrim, where he is being supported in his battle to tackle his long-standing addiction.
Mongan's barrister Jonathan Connolly said that while on remand Mongan went "cold turkey", and is now on the waiting list for drugs counselling.
Citing the case against the three defendants as "unusual", Judge Stephen Fowler QC said: "Often people who have drug addictions for long periods of time meet up together and use drugs together in houses and flats, and supply one another with drugs."
This, the judge said, was the basis of Carlisle's plea and he was placed on probation for three years.
Addressing Carlisle and Mongan, who received a two-year probation order, Judge Fowler warned any breach would result in a custodial sentence.
Graham was made the subject of an 18-month probation order and was told by the judge to "avail of the facilities available to assist you in dealing with your addictions".