Belfast Telegraph

Diazepam a form of currency on Northern Ireland streets, says High Court judge

By Alan Erwin

Diazepam has become a form of currency on the streets of Northern Ireland, a High Court judge said today.

Mr Justice Weir gave his view on the prescription medication's availability came as one user told him he had bought it in bulk at a 50 pence rate.

Derry man Stephen McCarron claimed at one stage he was taking more than 120 pills a week.

McCarron, 31, is accused of breaking into his ex-partner's home in the city and wrecking it.

During a bail application prosecution counsel said red paint had been splashed outside and inside the Lisfannon Park property on February 27.

Rooms were ransacked, children's toys and crockery was smashed, and there appeared to be urine on the bed and sofa.

Conor Gillespie, prosecuting, said television, digi-box and internet cabling was also destroyed.

Although the woman who lives there had not been present, it was claimed she was also told in a phone call that she would be killed.

McCarron, of Moyola Drive in Derry, denies charges of attempted criminal damage, threats to kill and burglary with intent to cause unlawful damage.

When he was arrested police found traces of red paint on his hands and clothes, the court heard.

He claimed the stains could have been due to coming into contact with substances kept by his father, a decorator.

According to Mr Gillespie McCarron was not immediately fit to be interviewed due to drink or drug consumption.

Defence barrister Mark Reel confirmed his client's problems relate to depression and taking diazepam.

In a general observation Mr Justice Weir said: "People get diazepam for no other purpose than to sell it.

"It appears our doctors are relatively ready to prescribe it and then of course it's very easy to buy it on the street - it's a form of currency."

Questioning McCarron about his own alleged habit, the judge was told he has reduced it from when he first took over 120 tablets a week.

"What does it cost on the street now, 50p?" Mr Justice Weir asked.

The accused, who appeared via prison video-link, replied: "Around about that buying them in bulk."

Granting bail, the judge banned McCarron from taking any drink or drugs and ordered him to obtain a new mobile phone number unknown to his ex-partner.

He also imposed a curfew, electronic tagging and imposed a one-mile exclusion zone around the alleged victim's home.

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