Police taking people to court over begging in Weston to 'protect the public'

PUBLISHED: 16:00 31 July 2018

A number of people have been sleeping rough on Weston's streets this year.

A number of people have been sleeping rough on Weston's streets this year.

Archant

Several people are facing court action in the near future after being arrested by police over begging in Weston.

An emergency night shelter was set up at the Friends Meeting House this year.An emergency night shelter was set up at the Friends Meeting House this year.

The sight of people sleeping rough or asking for money has become more obvious in parts of the town in 2018 – particularly around High Street, Big Lamp Corner and Regent Street.

Weston Town Council has pledged £25,000 towards a night assessment centre, which should open in October, and will guide people through a process to get them off the streets permanently.

MORE: Night assessment centre for the homeless planned for Weston.

Meanwhile, police have been using antisocial behaviour legislation to prevent people begging.

Weston Sergeant Lee Kerslake said police powers are limited, and it is important to find a balance between using enforcement and signposting people to help.

He told the Weston Hillside and Central Partners and Community Together (PACT) group this month: “We have one of our officers who is effectively a begging officer, she is dealing with so many cases.

“She has four different begging cases going through the courts currently.”

Some people seen begging on the High Street may already be subject to community protection notices, which aim to prevent unreasonable behaviour which is having a negative impact on the community.

Sergeant Kerslake said: “There are cases of begging where someone asks for money and you can try to deal with it. We have been asked to deal with it, and we have taken people to court over it.

“We have notices so people don’t sit down in the high street.”

Sergeant Kerslake said police cannot deal with the homelessness side – only with protecting the public.

He said: “Some of these people really need help and we will try to point them to avenues where they can get help but my tools to deal with it are enforcement based.

“We can put orders on, or arrest, or signpost.

“Some people are comfortable with that, some aren’t. We try to balance that.

“There are people on the streets who are begging, and are drug-users causing problems.

“There are also people in a very difficult position who need help.

“I cannot emphasise enough, we will be robustly dealing with people who are really harming people in the community but there are also people being harmed and in a hopeless position.

“We want to get them out of that.”

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