'Most prolific beggar' in Leeds banned from begging in city centre
A man described by police as 'the most prolific beggar' in Leeds has been given an order banning him from begging in the city centre.
Richard Scott was made the subject of a Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) after he appeared at Leeds Magistrates’ Court for breaching a police dispersal order.
Evidence was presented to the court about the 37-year-old’s involvement in “turf wars” with other beggars which had led to fights and arguments.
The court was told he had also been aggressive to members of the public while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and had been abusive to police officers who have moved him on.
Superintendent Sam Millar, who heads the city’s community safety partnership Safer Leeds, said: “Enforcement action such as criminal behaviour orders is a last resort and is only used when people repeatedly ignore the offers of support that are available from a number of partner agencies.”
The authorities said Scott, of Harlech Crescent, Beeston, has been persistently begging in Leeds since 2012.
Research found he was not homeless and receives housing benefit, but he has begged from the same spot on the corner of New Station Street and Boar Lane for the last four years and often takes a taxi home at the end of the day.
Following work by Leeds Anti Social Behaviour Team, the application for a CBO was made at lsat week’s hearing.
It means that for three years Scott must not to beg or attempt to beg from any other person.
He is also banned from sitting or loitering on any thoroughfare or in a public place with any article which would reasonably give another person the impression he was begging or intending to beg. This covers items such as a hat, cup or other receptacle.
If he breaches the order, he can be arrested and face prosecution.
Supt Millar said: “The police and council work closely alongside a range of other support agencies to try to address behaviour that has an ongoing detrimental effect on the lives of individuals and other people living and working in the city.
“It is vital that we take a balanced and co-ordinated approach and our priority is always the wellbeing of the individual involved.
“This case, which has been the subject of a multi-agency conference, is a good example of how we will be continuing to make full use of the available legislation to address the behaviour of others who without robust intervention will remain trapped in a cycle of addiction and begging.”
The decision to apply for the order followed what were described as “repeated refusals” by Scott when he was offered the chance to engage with support services.
It had been hoped those services could help him to address his heroin addiction, which is considered by the authorities to be the main driver of his begging.
Coun Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member for Safer Leeds, said a range of meaningful support was provided in the city to those who are vulnerable, homeless or found to be begging.
She said: “The public can be assured that this is a key commitment of the council, the Safer Leeds partnership and partners, and that this help and the offer of accommodation and access to vital services to tackle addictions and other complex issues, will be made available both now and in the future.”
The publication of the details of the order coincided with a Leeds City Council scrutiny panel meeting today examining the issue of begging.
It heard that in the past 12 months, 270 dispersal notices have been issued by police to people found begging, with a total of 85 beggars identified.
Among them were two “aggressive beggars” who were issued with Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBO).
And the authorities are currently pursuing CBOs for three more beggars in cases where they say “all other approaches have been exhausted”.
West Yorkshire Police and the council’s anti-social behaviour team are now working towards expanding a recent crackdown on begging in the city centre.
A report to the panel said planned measures include expanding the use of CBOs, exploring the possibility of a ‘dedicated slot’ for hearings at court for persistent and aggressive beggars, and better links with help agencies including mental health provision.
The report said: “We do get a number of complaints about people begging from residents, commuters, shops and businesses, and people who socialise in the city centre, who don’t want to be constantly asked for money.
“We do not seek to criminalise everyone found begging and have steered away from arresting people for begging as the first choice of action, preferring to engage, offer support and warn individuals where appropriate. However begging is a crime and intimidating, aggressive and persistent behaviour is anti-social, will not be tolerated and has to be addressed.”
Anyone who sees Scott in breach of his order is asked to contact police via 101.