West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

MLA writes to Lord Chief Justice re- District Judge's Fintona 'Drugs Capital' comments

Published: 21 August, 2013

West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA Barry Mc Elduff has written to the Office of the Lord Chief Justice in Belfast to express his disappointment and concern at recent remarks made by the District Judge, Bernadette Kelly at Omagh Magistrates' Court where she described Fintona as 'our drugs capital'.

Mr Mc Elduff said this week that there is 'considerable hurt within the Fintona community at the labelling of their town in this way. From my knowledge of the people of Fintona, I believe this comment to be a misrepresentation of an entire community and I do not believe for one second that this statement is supported by the evidence or the facts'.

Mr Mc Elduff continued, "You cannot paint a town and an entire community with the one brush. Fintona has a population of almost 4,000 and is the second largest centre of population in the Omagh District. The vast majority of local people are hard-working, law abiding citizens who contribute positively to community, business and sporting life.

"It is of the utmost importance that people in positions of authority should exercise greater responsibility and sensitivity when labelling an entire community based on an individual or even a number of court cases. It is worth noting that the District Judge made her remarks in a case involving a defendant who did not come from Fintona and who was charged with disorderly behaviour and two counts of assault on police, arising from an incident which occurred in Fintona in May of this year.'

"In writing to the Lord Chief Justice, I want to stand up for the people of Fintona. I absolutely respect the principle of judicial independence but I have taken legal advice on this matter and it is appropriate for me to lodge a complaint of this nature with the Lord Chief Justice's Office as detailed in the Code of Practice regarding Complaints about the Conduct of Judicial Office Holders.''