Belfast Telegraph

Recovering drug addict clears first stage in legal battle over funding cuts at Co Antrim treatment centre

By Alan Erwin

A recovering drug addict today cleared the first stage in a legal battle over funding cuts at a Co Antrim treatment centre.

A High Court judge granted leave to seek a judicial review of the decision to reduce financial support which had left the Railway Street facilities in Ballymena facing closure.

Mr Justice Treacy agreed to let the case advance to a full hearing after the Department of Justice confirmed it was not opposing the application.

The man who issued proceedings has been a regular user of the Railway Street drugs misuse service.

He claims there was a failure to consult before Justice Minister David Ford announced a cut in funding last year.

Althouh the centre was expected to shut earlier this 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 are seeking a declaration that the alleged lack of consultation was unlawful.

In court today Tony McGleenan QC, for the DoJ, confirmed: "The Department will not be opposing the granting of leave."

He added that factual issues in dispute between the two sides still have to be explored.

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust, which provides part of the funding for the centre, is represented in the case as a notice party.

Mr Justice Treacy listed the challenge for a full hearing in June.

Outside court a solicitor for the applicant stressed the objective was to keep the service operating.

Emma McCann of Jack McCann & Son said: "As a solicitor practising in Ballymena and dealing with family law, criminal law and mental health cases we see the benefits to our clients on a daily basis from the community addiction team at Railway Street.

"This challenge is being brought in an attempt to ensure the service remains open."

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