Questions about begging industry have to be asked, says judge

Serious questions need to be asked about the emerging begging industry where strings are pulled by those using vulnerable people, according to a Galway District Court judge who imposed a suspended sentence on one man for obstructing people while begging.

Judge Mary Fahy made the observation at Monday’s court sitting after hearing how Petrica Constantin (32 ) travelled from his home at 130 Willowpark, Athlone, Co Westmeath, to Galway city on December 9 last to beg for money, however, he was charged with an offence under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011 when he found to be obstructing the passage of persons while begging. Judge Fahy noted that the circumstances were suspicious, questioning how anyone who was “down on their luck” could afford to buy the bus fare to come to the city, and that there was the distinct possibility that the incident was part of a begging industry.

Inspector Ernie Whyte told the court that at 4pm the defendant was observed sitting on the ground, holding a cup and begging, and that he had obstructed people from passing by. He added that the maximum penalty for the offence was one month in jail and/or €500 fine.

Defence solicitor Colin Lynch said that his client, a Romanian national, was living in Athlone and came to Galway for the purpose of begging. Mr Lynch added that Constantin apologised to the court and that he was “living off his wits in this country”.

“We have heard in this court before that these incidents are organised most of the time. They are not coming into Galway off their own bat, it is organised, it is an industry... Questions have to be asked. If someone is down on their luck they don’t go from city to city, it costs money to come down to Galway. It’s an industry, there are people dropping them off. Why would they leave where they live to come down to Galway except where there is a bit of a racket and someone pulling the strings, and many of these people are vulnerable,” said Judge Fahy who convicted Constantin and imposed a one month jail sentence which was suspended on condition that he enter a bond of €200 to be of good behaviour and stay away from Galway city and county. He was also fined €200 with five months to pay.

 

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