Hydebank Young Offenders Centre “is awash with heroin,” a solicitor has claimed in a Belfast court.
The claim came at Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday as defence solicitor Sarah McKeown pleaded with the judge not to jail her client, heroin addict 18-year-old Maria Brady.
“You could send her to custody today but the YOC is awash with heroin,” declared Ms McKeown adding that “I have had other clients who have gone there and came out as addicts.”
Brady, from Verner Street in Belfast, was in court on foot of a bench warrant when she failed to turn up for court three days ago.
As Brady sat weeping in the dock, Ms McKeown said she didn’t turn up because she had been attending the funeral of homeless woman Catherine Kenny (32) who was found dead in a Belfast city centre doorway a week ago.
Tragically she is the fifth homeless person who has passed away this year on Belfast’s streets.
Ms McKeown revealed in court that before her death, Ms Kenny had been a close friend to Brady and had tried to help her, telling her “she didn’t want her to down the same road as her.”
It was because she was attending her funeral that Brady had failed to appear in court but today (Sat) she pleaded guilty to a single count of common assault on 26 December last year.
Making her plea in mitigation Ms McKeown conceded that Brady had “unfortunately graduated” from the youth court and legal highs to heroin addiction and the petty sessions.
She submitted however that sentencing could be deferred for a significant period as she was on the waiting list for an addiction treatment programme and while Brady’s mum has said she could live with her, Brady knew that if she did not attend that course, she would be homeless again.
Deferred sentencing to November, District Judge George Conner said that would allow time to test how Brady progressed on the addiction course.
As she left the dock Brady tearfully thanked the judge, telling him: “I don’t want to die like Catherine.”