Alcoholic defendants left with little choice but prison

Homeless man given two months jail to get sober

The closure of Harristown House has meant that many defendants with serious alcohol addictions are now left with little or no option other than a term in prison to get the period of sobriety and the help that they need, according to a district court judge.

Judge Mary Fahy made the comments at Galway District Court yesterday before reluctantly imposing a two-month sentence on a homeless alcoholic man. She said that without Harristown House the only chance for Darragh Watters, and others like him, to get sober and face their problems was regrettably to serve a term in jail.

The closure of Harristown House in November 2008 resulted in widespread condemnation. Set up in 1998 the residential unit, located in Castlerea, Roscommon, had offered addiction treatment to men coming through the courts. Following an independent review the Department of Justice decided to discontinue funding.

The court heard that Watters, aged in his 40s and currently living at Fairgreen Hostel, was arrested at 10am yesterday in Eyre Square and charged in connection with failing to appear for a previous court date.

Regarding other public order charges Inspector Ernie White said that at midnight on July 5, 2009, the defendant was bothering security staff at Freeney’s bar in High Street. Watters, who was very drunk, was shouting at security staff after being refused entry. On August 1 at 5pm gardai on patrol found the defendant lying in the middle of Shop Street. When gardai woke Watters up he became very abusive to them.

Defence solicitor Olivia Traynor said that after completing a lenghthy sentence Watters had been sober for six months but relapsed last Christmas and lost his house. She added that Watters knows he has serious difficulties and wants to address them.

“I don’t want to give him a custodial sentence but it will give him a period of sobriety and he may get help from the prison authorities,” said Judge Fahy, before imposing a total of two months.

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