A judge’s kind gesture to personally cover the cost of a man’s bus fare home after he was caught begging has been withdrawn after it transpired the court had been misled
Evelin Danila (53) whose address was given as no fixed abode, admitted begging in the Market Street area of Omagh on Christmas Eve.
A special sitting of Dungannon Magistrates’ Court heard a police patrol observed Danila seated outside a shop with a cup containing money.
He was previously warned on several occasions for begging and in one instance was dealt with by a Community Resolution Notice.
A defence lawyer explained Danila has been living between the UK and Ireland since 2014 and has pre-settled status. He and his wife worked in Castleblayney processing turkeys but he left after an argument.
Since then Danila claimed he was “sleeping on the streets” in Lisburn and Lurgan, where he was spoken to by police.
It was his understanding this meant he couldn’t return to those locations and why he came to be in Omagh. He contended he was attempting to make his way back to his wife to reconcile for Christmas.
“He fully accepts begging, the purpose of which was to obtain his bus fare home,” said the defence.
District Judge Michael Ranaghan imposed a 12 month conditional discharge, adding, “I see little point in fining someone who has no money.”
Through an interpreter Danila asked: “If I am being released, can they give me some money to get to my wife because I don’t want to be back in the situation of being on the street.”
Judge Ranaghan said this is not the role of police but on learning the bus fare was £17, offered to personally cover this himself.
However an officer told the court Danila “isn’t being totally honest”.
It transpired he holds a UK Driving Licence and was using a Republic of Ireland-registered vehicle.
The judge responded: “I was trying to invoke some Christmas spirit but I’m now told there are issues. My heart was ruling my head but the officer has put me back on the straight and narrow.”
The court heard while in custody Danila provided an address in Portadown which turned out to be a GP surgery.
He then stated his friend ‘Marie’ would get him an address but during a telephone call, the interpreter told police: “He’s talking to his wife. He’s trying to mislead you.”
The officer added £56.50 mostly in coins was found on Danila when he was arrested which “is why we are seeking forfeiture”.
“It’s hard-earned money from innocent members of the public, obviously given during the festive period,” added the officer. “The defendant has a medical card for assistance in Northern Ireland but hasn’t availed of that.”
It was requested the cash was given to charity, and “put back into Omagh where this goodwill was given”.
The defence said he thought “the Christmas spirit could prevail” by allowing Danila to have some of the money for his bus fare.
But Judge Ranaghan remarked: “I can’t condone what the defendant has done. Not making a full forfeiture order would encourage people who beg to assume they will get a soft touch from the court.”
He granted an order for the full amount which will go to St Vincent de Paul.