Pubdate: Tue, 06 Jun 2006
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2006
Author: Nick Britten


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 UKP850. 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."