File pic courtesy of Pixabay
A homeless Romanian national who engaged in ‘passive begging’ on the streets of Kilkenny was handed down a prison sentence at the last sitting of Kilkenny District Court.
Petrica Gaitan had contested the charges.
A garda witness said that on April 29 she was on patrol on when she saw a man begging.
“He had a cup in his hand and there was money in it. I asked him if he had a permit to collect money and he said no.
“There is a lot of footfall on this street because of the tourists,” she said.
The garda showed CCTV footage to the court which showed the defendant.
“He is sitting on the ground and people can be seen on the CCTV footage trying to get around the defendant,” she said.
The garda also outlined how she observed the defendant begging on Friary Street on February 20. CCTV footage from the area was played in court which showed pedestrians stepping out onto the road in order to pass by the defendant who was sitting on the footpath.
Solicitor Chris Hogan told the court that his client was ‘passive begging on the ground’ and was not ‘harassing or intimidating people’. Mr Hogan asked the garda if she accepted that this was the case and she replied ‘Yes’.
“I believe that the gardaí are too restrictive in their interpretation of the word ‘obstruction’. He wasn’t obstructing anyone on Kieran Street as there was plenty of room to walk around him. Passive begging should not be an offence,” he added.
Sergeant Alma Molloy agreed that it was ‘passive begging’ and remarked that there are other locations around the city where the defendant could sit and he would not be causing an obstruction.
Judge Colin Daly referred to the relevant legislation which prohibits begging that involves harassment or obstruction.
“It is quite clear and there is no ambiguity. If someone obstructs, which means to block or get in the way of someone, then it is an offence. It does not make begging an offence but it regulates it,” he said.
The judge heard that the defendant has seven previous convictions, including similar-type offences from other urban locations, including Drogheda and Cork.
Mr Hogan explained to the court that his client is a Romanian national who has been here for a period of time and is homeless on the streets.
“He is not intimidating or harassing and his income is just between €10 and €15 per day - he has enough just for food and not shelter and he is homeless,” he added.
Judge Daly convicted the defendant on both counts and imposed a three-week sentence in relation to each charge.
He also ordered that both sentences run consecutively.