Man caught with drugs in Ballymena courthouse cells claims he was anxious about attending court

ballymena court3
Ballymena Court.

A man who claimed he took drugs because he was anxious about attending court was caught with Class C Xanax tablets in the courthouse cells.

William James McLaughlin (26), of Ards Drive in Monkstown near Belfast, was back at the same court – Ballymena Magistrates Court – on Thursday for sentencing.

He admitted a charge of possessing Class C drugs which were detected in October last year.

A prosecutor said police were called to the holding cells in the courthouse on an unrelated matter and saw McLaughlin attempting to hide something on October 18 in 2018.

The defendant then handed over Xanax tablets which he said he bought for around £70 and admitted he had taken two or three that morning before he attended court because he suffered from anxiety.

On October 18 last year, McLaughlin was given a five months jail term and banned from the road for five years after admitting driving with drugs taken and crashing into a hedge and also hitting a fence in a second incident in which he had to be cut free by the Fire Service and taken to hospital.

After the first crash Xanax was found in his system.

In relation to having the drugs in the courthouse, defence barrister Neil Moore told Thursday’s court the defendant had battled his addiction and is now drug free.

He said a pastor accompanied the defendant to court and that McLaughlin has a placement available at a Christian Fellowship in England.

Mr Moore said McLaughlin now has a “solid Christian lifestyle”.

District Judge Nigel Broderick said it was concerning that anybody would take drugs to court and by imposing a one month jail term, suspended for a year, he was “sending a message” to others who considered doing the same.

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