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Ipswich: Should courts be tougher on beggars in town centre?

PUBLISHED: 16:02 06 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:02 06 March 2014

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central

The chief executive of Ipswich Central has slammed the courts system for going too easy on beggars who hamper business in the town.

Paul Clement said those who tried to catch and deter beggars were often let down by Magistrates who imposed small fines.

“The courts need to wake up and realise the amount of work and effort it takes to find somebody guilty of a crime, which begging is,” he said. “For Magistrates to give that person a £20 fine is ludicrous, they can earn that back in an hour.”

Mr Clement was speaking after it was revealed that three times as many people were arrested for begging in Suffolk last year than during 2012.

27 people were arrested for begging last year, all but one of whom was in Ipswich or Lowestoft. In 2012 the figure was just nine. The figure in 2011 was three, in 2010 it was seven, and in 2009 it was four.

One beggar in Cardinal Park, Ipswich, was reported as saying he made over £150 a day.

Mr Clement, who heads the business improvement district company, said the increase in arrests was not a result of more begging but increased detection.

Ipswich Central employs street rangers who work with the police to warn and catch persistent beggars.

“It is a massive interference to businesses and it is a deterrent to customers but it is something that is common to all big towns,” said Mr Clement.

He stressed that members of the public shouldn’t keep beggars on the streets by giving them money.

“Enforcement needs to be stronger in court but we could stop it tomorrow if we didn’t give money to them,” he said.

“It’s highly irritating that it happens, there is a section of those people who people are giving money to who actually do this for a living and make a good living.

“We need to stop giving money to beggars, if we want to give money away we should give it to charities who help those who are truly in need.”

Inspector Danny Cooper from Ipswich Central Safer Neighbourhood Team said: “The rise in arrests of people for begging in Ipswich is as a result of proactive work done by officers in the town centre.

“A multi-agency campaign is currently running to address underlying issues and provide support to those begging, through close work with partnership organisations such as the Ipswich Homeless Transition Project, Ipswich Borough Council and The Ipswich Central Rangers.

“However, for those that do not engage, enforcement action will be taken.”

Mark McPherson, Director of Practice and Regions for Homeless Link, said the police should “always work hand in hand with charities to ensure if someone is sleeping rough they are supported off the streets.”

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