A Romanian man who has admitted begging on the streets of Limavady told police he was homeless and had “no other means of earning money”.
Petru Agape (48), of no fixed abode, appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday charged with begging at Market Street in Limavady on Saturday October 27. A prosecutor said police received a report of a male with a suitcase sitting underneath an umbrella with a cup in front of him containing money.
When officers turned up he appeared to be begging from members of the public. When arrested and interviewed the defendant admitted he had been begging and that he knew it was an offence.
The defendant told police had “no other means of earning money”; he was homeless and felt he had “no other option”. The court heard the defendant had a relevant ‘diversion’ and he was also facing other similar charges in Derry/Londonderry.
Through an interpreter at court the defendant said he wished to apologise.
He claimed he had been living in Northern Ireland for one month but District Judge Liam McNally noted the defendant had received a caution in February this year. The judge asked if the defendant had signed on for benefits yet and the reply was no.
Judge McNally said he presumed Agape was “just not entitled” to benefits at this stage.
The judge said he was not going to impose a heavy fine or send the defendant to prison for begging but that if Agape keeps breaking the law he would no option but to do just that. The court heard police seized £11.56 from the cup which Agape had on the street.
Judge McNally said the people who had given the defendant that money had done so on the basis that he was homeless and he directed that it be passed to the Simon Community. Agape was given a two year conditional discharge.
The judge said that meant if the defendant committed another begging offence in that period he would take out the court papers and fine the defendant.
The defendant had a suitcase with him as he left the courthouse in Coleraine.