“Highway robber” accused of doing heroin in courthouse

An addict who allegedly used a courthouse toilet to shoot up a last hit of heroin knowing he faced a substantial jail sentence was outed in Athlone District Court this week (March 20 ) when he returned to face further charges.

“This sort of thing is totally unacceptable. Who is that?” asked Judge Seamus Hughes when he noticed Natasha Ring have a moment’s unsupervised access in the dock with her boyfriend Raymond O’Neill (25 ), from Meadowbrook, Willow Park, Athlone during which she looked to pass him a soft drink.

Attending officers quickly returned her to the general body of the court, after satisfying themselves nothing untoward had passed between them.

The judge then revealed he believed the defendant, on his most recent court appearance on March 4, had used a toilet break to inject heroin before being sent down for a six-month sentence.

“This man in custody recently was able to shoot up, that’s how you say it, inspector?” Judge Hughes clarified with Inspector Aidan Minnock.

“I say this purely to protect the safety of staff, who have enough to worry about without picking up sharps,” he continued.

“Weren’t you the gentleman who went into the toilet and shot up something?” the judge asked O’Neill when his case was called.

“No, it wasn’t me,” protested O’Neill, who had been jailed on his last appearance for stealing two ladies jackets - worth €210 to order - for a €25 bag of heroin.

“Don’t worry. I’m not an investigator, but you were a holy disgrace last time,” said the judge, reminding the court O’Neill appeared before him then heavily under an influence.

Detective Garda Padraig Hession then told the court what charge O’Neill was back to face.

He explained how O’Neill and one other had held up a teenage boy and robbed his mobile phone at around 9.30pm on August 27 on the Dublin Road.

“Judge, one held the injured party, while the other went through his pockets,” said Garda Hession.

However, O’Neill perpetrated the theft before four witnesses who knew him. They brought the teenager to the Garda station, and reported the crime. O’Neill was arrested at his home less than two hours later, and the phone was recovered.

“This was highway robbery. That boy was held up by this thug with 41 previous convictions,” said the judge.

“Drug users usually rob and steal to feed their filthy habit, and then they don’t have the strength of character to deal with it,” he added.

“There’s a clear gap in the treatment facilities in this town. There seems to be a three or four month waiting list for methadone treatment in Athlone. Athlone is a known heroin centre. I’m only repeating what was said on the national airwaves,” he continued, before sentencing O’Neill to a further two months in jail, consecutive with his present sentence.


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