A 17-year-old boy’s finger was cut off over a £700 drug debt, the High Court heard today.
The youth was subjected to the partial amputation during an attack in east Belfast earlier this month, a judge was told.
Details emerged as he mounted a bid to be released again on bail.
The teenager, who cannot be named due to his age, faces charges of threats to kill, criminal damage and possession of an offensive weapon in public.
The alleged offences are connected to an incident in July at a Co Down children’s home where he was staying.
Prosecutors said he was subsequently admitted to bail, but then attacked by unidentified men on August 8.
The court heard he was pinned down and had a little finger severed at the knuckle.
“Police believe this was to do with his drug debt,” prosecution counsel Kate McKay said.
The youth was returned to custody last week due to his behaviour at the home.
Opposing his application to be released again, Mrs McKay claimed his safety could be at risk because he can exit the accommodation.
“He’s potentially still in debt to undesirables for the sum of about £700,” she said.
“Police say the only way he’s going to be able to pay off that debt is to engage in criminal activity.”
A member of staff at the home gave evidence backing concerns for the teenager’s safety.
She voiced fears that he may be attacked again, stressing efforts were being made to find secure accommodation.
Defence counsel acknowledged the “nasty” injury inflicted on his client.
He argued, however, that a child may be wrongly kept in custody without the authorities exhausting all possible alternative living arrangements.
During exchanges Mr Justice Deeny asked: “You would let him out to let some of these drug dealers cut off another finger?”
He also put it to the defence: “If it was your child you would remove it from danger. How is that to be done here?”
Adjourning the application, the judge confirmed he was giving the Trust involved a chance to find the boy a bed in another secure home.
He added: “His welfare obviously dictates that he stays where he is, rather than out on the streets.” ends