In the Media

1,100 drug needles found in council tax rebel's street

PUBLISHED June 9, 2006

A pensioner who is facing jail because she refuses to pay her council tax until her local authority cleans up her street said she felt "completely vindicated" yesterday after 1,100 used needles were found there in one weekend.

Josephine Rooney, 69, said that despite years of drug addicts hanging around Hartington Street in Derby even she was shocked at the quantity.

She said: "It just goes to show I'm not talking rubbish. For six years I have campaigned for the council to clean this area up and I think the number of needles found speaks for itself.

"The council are doing nothing and while I don't enjoy withholding my tax, I feel completely vindicated when you see piles upon piles of used needles."

The haul was collected on Monday morning, only three days after the council cleaned the same area.

Miss Rooney, who has lived in the street for 20 years, began withholding the tax two years ago and now owes about ?850. She has been paying the tax into a separate account and said she will hand it to the council once it clears the area of drug abusers.

Last week's deadline to pay passed and she expects to hear by the end of the month when her next court appearance will be.

Hartington Street used to be one of the city's most desirable residences, lined with three-storey Victorian houses. These days they are all split up into flats and bedsits, some of which are boarded up, and the street is a favourite place for drug abusers, most of whom congregate in an alleyway off the street, dubbed "smack alley".

A normal weekend clean-up would net between 200 and 300 needles but Miss Rooney said the situation was worsening. She added: "I commend the efforts of the hit squads and other community patrol groups because they've got to go around picking these needles up and it's a dangerous job.

"But everyone around here is supporting me and episodes like this just back us up.

"I've written letters to Tony Blair, to Margaret Beckett, our MP, and the council, but have got absolutely nowhere and clearly nothing is being done."

Gerv McGrath, East Midlands area manager for the drug charity Addaction, said: "Finding up to 200 needles a day is disturbing. I'm very surprised that 1,000 have accumulated in just a few days.

"Hartington Street is an area where people are in short-term accommodation and there is a cohort of users around there."

Fareed Hussain, councillor for the Arboretum ward, which covers the area, said: "It's incredibly shocking. We know drug taking is a huge problem in the street and that the council is trying to help clean up the area, but it is not something that can be done overnight."