Strabane council will send street drinkers straight to court

Strabane District Council has announced that all adults breaching on-street drinking by-laws will be automatically dealt with through the courts.

This is a reversal of the present policy of issuing cautions to first-time offenders.

From 1 October, anyone found in breach of the by-laws will be prosecuted and will face a maximum fine of £500, court costs and a criminal record.

The by-laws were first introduced in 1991 to tackle anti-social behaviour.

In January 2000, the council introduced an amendment which meant first-time offenders were given the opportunity to accept an official caution rather than face legal proceedings.

Offenders under 18 will be dealt with under a restorative justice system where they would be offered a place on a "youth diversion scheme".

Councillor Thomas Kerrigan, Vice Chair of the council, welcomed the decision.

"In many cases youths congregating in breach of the by-laws have a major detrimental effect on the wellbeing of residents and ratepayers and in my opinion formal cautions did not provide a sufficient deterrent factor," he said.

Since the by-laws were first introduced over 200 prosecutions have been taken by Strabane District Council and more than 250 individuals have been officially cautioned.