PICTURE : MARK JAMIESON
A SERIAL street beggar has avoided prison but was warned by a judge: “It’s jail the next time”.
Alec Getty (63), of Trinity Drive, Ballymoney, appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday and admitted a charge of begging in the vicinity of Main Street in his home town on May 10 this year. The charge was that he placed himself ‘to beg or gather alms, contrary to Section 3 of the Vagrancy (Ireland) Act 1847’.
A prosecutor said on May 10 this year police received a report of a male begging after he approached a female asking her for money and she informed him she had none. Getty then approached two other females for money.
Defence solicitor Denise Gillan said the defendant was diagnosed as a schizophrenic in the 1980s and had mental health issues. She said Getty, who lives alone, gets housing benefit and other benefits and gets support from his ex-wife, who was in court.
Ms Gillan said the defendant generally asks people for 50 pence or a pound and added: “It’s compulsive behaviour with him. It is also a complete nuisance to the community”. Ms Gillan said if it is not begging the offending tended to be “public urination”.
The solicitor said her client had been warned by the resident district judge in Coleraine, Judge Liam McNally, about his offending. The lawyer said Getty had pleaded guilty to the latest offence at the first opportunity.
“This is a man who is mentally ill,” she added. District Judge Paul Copeland said: “Here he is again”.
The judge said Getty had “multiple convictions” for begging with “various disposals”. Judge Copeland told Getty he had to “strike a balance” and acknowledged the defendant had problems but yet he was repeatedly appearing in court for begging.
He told Getty: “People feel intimidated and threatened and much put upon. The next time you are tempted to harass people for money remember that you will be behind bars”. Imposing a one month jail term, suspended for 18 months, the judge told the defendant: “Off you go and stop bothering people on the streets in this fashion”.
Getty replied: “Thank you Your Honour”.