JUST a little over five years ago, a persistent beggar was in the dock after residents complained he was scaring them.

Five years ago yesterday we reported how Brett Hartland, then aged 40, appeared in court after repeatedly loitering near a cashpoint in Worcester and scaring customers.

Hartland was handed a criminal behaviour order and warned he could face five years in jail if he did not mend his ways after police successfully applied for the order after the Safer Neighbourhood Team received repeated reports of him begging aggressively.

At the time, Temporary Sergeant Alex Denny said: “Hartland would regularly place himself immediately next to the Royal Bank of Scotland cash machine during the evenings and ask people directly for money while they were using it.

“Hartland would be sat so close to people using the machine that it would be impossible for them to avoid him if they used it.

“He would target revellers during night time economy especially. The bank reported a decline in people using that particular machine due to this activity.

“Hartland would sit next to the cash machines at Tesco Express on Foregate Street and also sit against the front door to Post Office Apartments at the same location.

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“Residents reported being asked for money when they left their apartments and when they returned home as well and that this caused them to feel unsafe and harassed.”

T/Sgt Denny said Hartland had been asked to move on regularly by officers and had been reported and summonsed to court for persistently begging on several occasions by police.

He added: “Hartland would often refuse to move when requested and could become aggressive when requested. He had on two occasions refused to move along until arrested by officers.

“This unnecessary and persistent behaviour caused avoidable distress for the local community and this order will grant some respite to those affected by him.

“West Mercia Police have excellent working relationships with a wide variety of support agencies within Worcester City and regularly signpost people to support agencies for assistance.

“However, on occasions offers of support and advice are refused and people's anti-social behaviours continue and even escalate to the detriment of the community leaving West Mercia Safer Neighbourhood Teams no options other than enforcement to safeguard those affected.”

The order granted against Hartland was the third of its kind in Worcester after another two beggars were handed them following similar reports of persistent begging.

It prohibits the defendant from begging or loitering or sitting in any place for the purpose of begging and/or asking people for money and from sitting or loitering within 10 metres of a cash machine other than for the purpose of properly using that ATM personally.

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City homeless charities have repeatedly spoken out over the truth of why people resort to begging.

Before last year's Victorian Christmas Fayre, homeless charities in the city said the "overwhelming majority" of people who beg on the streets do so in order to buy hard drugs, particularly crack cocaine and heroin, and super-strength alcoholic beers and ciders.

At the time, Jonathan Sutton, CEO of St Paul's Hostel, said: "Put simply we are asking the public to give wisely. The link is between begging and drug and alcohol misuse, not homelessness and begging, nor even homelessness and drugs.

"We must not demonise people who are addicted yet we must strengthen the message that these highly addictive drugs cause an extreme deterioration in people’s health and even death."

A report from Worcester Cares, which brings together St Paul’s Hostel and Maggs Day Centre, police, businesses, churches, Worcester BID and Worcester City Council, said: "There is no need to beg on the streets of Worcester in 2019.

"It is an urban myth that if you have no address, you cannot claim benefits.This simply isn’t true.

"Meanwhile, there are services where homeless people can get food, clothing and support such as St Paul’s Hostel, Maggs Day Centre and a soup kitchen nearly every night.