A Lurgan man begged on the streets in order to “fuel his alcohol problem” and managed to collect five or six pounds in an hour.
The 53-year-old’s solicitor told court: “He has enough money to do him but not enough to support his alcohol problem. He would have the funds to pay for the fine and I will tell him not to beg for it.”
James Patrick McDonagh, of Castle Lane Mews, pleaded guilty to begging at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court on Friday.
Prosecution outlined that on November 23, at 8.45pm, police on patrol of High Street, Portadown, observed the defendant sitting on the pavement outside Nationwide bank with a cup in front of him.
Officers witnessed a member of the public place money in the cup. As they approached him McDonagh stood up and put the contents of the cup in his pocket.
When cautioned, the defendant replied: “I was begging. I am sorry, I apologise a hundred times for begging.”
Defence solicitor Pat Vernon stated: “He is unemployed and has a longstanding alcohol problem. He lives in Lurgan and he did have that house on November 23.
“He did it to fuel his alcohol problem, you can see from his record he has a number of alcohol related offences down the years.”
He added: “He was not hassling people or going up to people asking for money. He was just sitting with a cup in front of him.”
Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer commented: “I have a cup in front of me but no one is putting money in it. I have seen people sitting with just a cup as if it is not an offence.”
Mr Vernon said: “He instructs there was five or six pounds in the cup and he had only been sitting there for an hour or so. He thought it was a good place to sit as people were coming in and out with money.
“He has enough money to do him but not enough to support his alcohol problem. He would have the funds to pay for the fine and I will tell him not to beg for it.”
Deputy District Judge Mateer stated: “I don’t know how much money you get begging but you should not be trespassing on the tender hearts of the people of Portadown.
“The system has ways of supporting those who are unemployed. If everyone did what you do then the streets would be full.”
McDonagh was ordered to pay a fine of £80, along with the offender’s levy of £15.