A man who ended up in court after he and his wife took worthless discarded food from a supermarket yard has revealed his desperate plight.
Paul Barker was seen sifting through out-of-date groceries at the back of Tesco in Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham, when the couple were caught on CCTV at midnight on January 5, Sunderland magistrates heard.
But after a judge said he could impose no financial penalty on the 39-year-old for his actions, Barker described his existence as “not really living at all.”
Prosecutor Jeanette Smith said Barker and wife Kerry, 29, were seen in the rear compound of the Hetton Road Tesco Express store, removing a pallet of food.
However, Mrs Smith added that, although the items were to be thrown out, they were in a secure compound, adding that Tesco’s policy is not to give away discarded food.
Barker, of Caroline Street, Hetton admitted theft. He already has £300 in outstanding fines owing to the court.
Angus Westgarth, defending, said:
“At the time, they hadn’t had benefits or any money since December. It just seems that the state has failed them.
“They were told they would not get any benefits for a year from December. He is having to duck and dive to feed himself. Without a crystal ball I can see that this will continue to happen.
“He is trying to survive however he can. I think they call this way of living ‘freeganism’. They take waste food and consume it.
“They are managing to live as, I think, Social Services are paying some money for housing. Their children are living with grandparents because of the situation.”
District Judge Roger Elsey said:
“How are they expected to live?
“It seems to me the appropriate punishment for taking food which is of no value is an absolute discharge. I clearly can’t make any financial order.”
> Well done that judge !
Barker’s wife Kerry is due before magistrates this week, charged with the same offence.
Speaking at home after the case, Barker said:
“I do it because I need food, I’m not nicking for profit like most.
“You have to be careful with fish, but most out-of-date food you can eat, but things like bread might be slightly harder.
“They should give it to people who need it. But they don’t care, it’s just money making.
“It’s wrong, it’s horrible, it’s like not really living at all. It’s like being in jail. I’m banned from all the shops.”
Barker said he broke his back in a fall while working as a scaffolder and is out of work. He also used to work with young offenders after he got out of rehab, where he was treated for his addiction to crack and heroin, which he used for a third of his life.
He added that his wife has a degree in sociology, but was forced to give up her job at Durham County Council five years ago due to depression. The couple’s children, a four-year-old boy and two-year-old daughter are living with grandparents in Cumbria.
Tesco said that they do donate surplus food to people in need, through charity Fareshare and also redistribute food donated by their customers, to the Trussell Trust.
“Working with the charity FareShare, we have already distributed over three million meals worth of surplus food to people in need and we are working on ways to make sure more surplus food is donated in this way,” a spokesman said.
“It is not safe to take food from bins and that is why we work with charities to redistribute surplus food that is safe to eat to people who need it.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 12 May 2015
A mental health patient took a knife to a benefits tribunal so he could stab a judge at the hearing after his payments were stopped.
Kenneth Nicholson said he planned to carry out the attack so he could get locked up.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 49-year-old confessed he was armed when he met his psychiatric nurse outside South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court in South Shields just before the hearing last April.
Prosecutor Jolyon Perks told the court:
“On the day of the tribunal, judges became aware of the fact there had been prior notification from the community psychiatric nurse that this defendant harboured an intention to take a knife to the tribunal.
The court heard that one of the judging panel has since been left living in fear.
Mr Perks added;
“She says she was extremely frightened, worried that the defendant might be in a position to find out where she lives. She has an ongoing fear for her safety and that of her family.”
> I wonder how she felt before, making decisions that could drive people to desperate measures ? Perhaps she has a better understanding of the consequences her actions might have.
The court heard Nicholson had been receiving benefit payments after an incident at work almost 20 years ago resulted in mental health problems.
His payments were stopped after a new doctor concluded his mental state may not be linked to the industrial accident.
His case had been listed for an appeal hearing against the decision to stop the benefits, which was ultimately successful.
Nicholson, of no fixed address, admitted possession of a knife.
Recorder Andrew Baker told him:
“You had formed an intention, deluded and resulting from your mental condition, to use the knife on a member of the tribunal if you had the chance to do so.
“The thought process being it would get you locked up and you might be in a position to get legal representation.
“The fact that you were prepared to at least approach a court room of this country with an intention to do harm with a bladed weapon makes this a particularly serious case.”
The judge gave Nicholson a 20-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months, with mental health treatment requirements.
He was warned by the judge:
“You are a risk that can be managed in the community but I hope you understand you must treat this as a, literally, once in a lifetime opportunity for you.”
Graeme Cook, defending, said Nicholson gave the weapon to his health worker as soon as he was asked.
Mr Cook said:
“He would not have got through the security anyway, but he handed it over straight away.”
A man who turned drug dealer when the family’s benefits were stopped has been spared jail.
Anthony Howe was caught red handed when undercover officers spotted him selling cannabis to a customer on the street in Plains Farm, Sunderland, last June.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 39-year-old had been selling £10 deals, and still had 10 wraps in a bag he was carrying, along with £90 in cash.
Howe, of Besford Grove, Hendon, Sunderland, admitted possessing a Class B drug with intent to supply.
He has two previous convictions for drug dealing, the last one being in 2010.
Prosecutor Jessica Slaughter told the court two plain clothes detectives had noticed Howe approaching a man who had been acting suspiciously in Borough Road.
Miss Slaughter said: “The defendant approached this male and they effectively observed a drug deal.
“Ten pounds was passed over and the defendant took a small bag out of a larger bag from his left pocket.”
The court heard when Howe’s phone was seized it contained messages which linked him to dealing.
Vic Laffey, defending, said:
“He lives with his partner and they have a number of children.
“What instigated the offence was she was investigated, and is still in the process of being investigated, for benefit fraud. As a result the benefits were stopped. They had no income at all.
“That is what led to him taking the step of reverting to something he has been involved in in the past.
“It was a financial decision because of lack of money and the fact the benefits had been stopped altogether.”
Mr Recorder Andrew Baker, QC, sentenced Howe to 15 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with supervision.
The judge told him: “You were, in effect, caught red handed dealing in the street, small wraps of cannabis for £10.
“If your issues are not addressed, I am satisfied you will offend again.
“With your record, this really is your last chance to keep yourself out of custody.”
Reposted from Kate Belgrave
I still have quite a few transcripts from interviews with people on JSA that I haven’t posted this year, mainly because I sometimes run out of time.
Am posting some of them this week to give you a little more insight into a system in total meltdown.
These first two are about lives in a kind of meltdown as well – people who have been to jail, can’t get work and probably won’t, because this isn’t an era that does second chances. I can see a lot of people passing judgement on these two individuals. Can’t see too many of the judgement-passers offering solutions, though. I think there’s a feeling now – certainly among politicians – that certain people deserve to be on the scrapheap and should be made to stay there.
This first interview I did recently with a man on the work programme in…
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> The on-going campaign against begging has now arrived in Middlesbrough.
The campaign against the conditions that make people beggars has not yet started, nor is it likely to.
Middlesbrough‘s Mayor Ray Mallon has promised a clampdown on beggars to give retailers and shoppers in the town “a good Christmas”.
> Is he seriously claiming that beggars are affecting Middlesbrough’s economy ? But surely they plough money they make back into the tills of retailers too ?
The outspoken mayor launched a new attack on beggars at a meeting of Middlesbrough Council’s Executive today.
“Beggars are not homeless, they are criminals,” he said, claiming they “diversify from crime to begging because it pays well”.
“I know half of these people, I was locking their fathers up,” he said.
> Not pausing to reflect that he might have helped build the current situation when he was busy playing RoboCoop.
Mr Mallon went on: “These beggars are affecting economics because they are intimidating.
“It becomes quite difficult for shoppers to walk around and not be intimidated.”
The mayor said beggars were now targeting car parks as people give them money there because “they feel they could be robbed”.
“I know this as lots of members of the public have told me this,” he said.
> Oh, well… scientific survey and all that. Some people told me so it must be true, especially as it reinforces my prejudices.
I suppose if I’m being fair, I have my predjudices too. Ex-cops who get elected as mayors, for example, despite the fact that…
At a disciplinary hearing in February 2001, Mallon pleaded guilty to 14 charges of misconduct, 12 of which were serious enough to warrant his resignation.
He admitted that he repeatedly “lied, deliberately withheld evidence from senior officers, and turned a blind eye to detectives who took and dealt hard drugs, and supplied them to vulnerable suspects in custody.”
He was required to resign on leaving the police headquarters.
In 2011, Mallon came under fire over secret recordings in which he is heard making sexual comments about a colleague and describes Asian taxi drivers as ‘badly behaved’. These recordings were made during a meeting with Mohammed Bashir, the owner of local taxi company Boro Taxis. The remarks were perceived as sexist and racist by many, but Mallon subsequently offered an explanation and apology for his remarks.
The recordings also make reference to a disagreement between the council and Bashir over Boro Taxis’ trade. In dealing with this dispute, Mallon failed to declare his personal friendship with Bashir, as he was required to.
In the recordings, Mallon claims to have ‘played a fucking blinder‘ and goes on to say: “Well I’m the boss here but remember this, I’m prevented from doing my job because of my conflict of interest with you… because I have actually got away with murder because I’ve declared my friendship with you in that meeting and still been able to do what I want to do.“
The Standards Board for England, a watchdog for ethical standards in local councils, ruled against Mallon on a charge of bringing his office into disrepute and on two separate charges of failing to declare, when required, a personal interest. However the board did not recommend any sanctions be brought against Mallon.[
The subject changed to begging after the meeting heard how a free parking scheme was drawing Christmas shoppers into Middlesbrough.
Mr Mallon said parking was one of the barriers that can stop people visiting a town, and begging was another.
He said the council and its partners needed to “keep on top” of the problem with it being the Christmas period.
Councillor Steve Bloundele, Executive member for commercial assets and property, told the meeting that an ongoing clampdown had already reduced the number of beggars in the Linthorpe Road area.
“We still have the support of all the other agencies working alongside us,” he said.
Begging is an issue tackled regularly by Ray Mallon.
Back in September he told the Executive:
“The local authority must take this subject very seriously and do everything in its power to eradicate this problem.
“From now on I don’t want the public to give them any money.”
On another occasion Mr Mallon took direct action against a beggar by standing next to him and telling shoppers not to give him any money until he got fed up and moved away.
The mayor declared war against beggars as long ago as 2002, when he pledged to run a growing army of aggressive beggars on the streets of Middlesbrough out of town.
It was the new growth area in anti-social behaviour, he warned during a council debate on crime and policing in the town in September of that year.
In 2005 it was claimed the final ‘hardcore’ beggar had been run out of Middlesbrough.
Then in 2008 key agencies joined forces to tackle a new influx of beggars in the town.
The move came just days after Mayor Mallon warned that beggars intimidated members of the public and again called for offenders to be run out of town.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 09 Dec 2014
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Mallon
Veteran Labour MP Michael Meacher has launched a stinging attack against Iain Duncan Smith (IDS), accusing the Work and Pensions Secretary of denying poor people food and shelter and pushing them into stealing to survive.
Writing on his blog Mr Meacher said:
“The papers are full-on when members or ex-members of the government make a fool of themselves behaving badly when they can’t get their way – Andrew Mitchell foul-mouthing a policeman with the toxic ‘plebs’ allegedly added in because he couldn’t ride his bike through the No.10 gates, and David Mellor ranting at a black cab driver over the best route home to his £8m pad near Tower Bridge.
“But what really matters about members of the government is not their silly misbehaviour, it’s they [sic] way they’re crucifying millions of people even to the point where they’re denying them food and shelter.
“On this, with a few honourable exceptions, the media are largely silent on the grounds presumably that they don’t matter because they’re not famous.
“A million people have been sanctioned by government ministers over this last year, which means that they are deprived of all their benefit for often petty infringements (e.g. being 5 minutes late for a job interview) and hence have no money for at least 4 weeks and sometimes 3 months, forcing them to steal to survive.
If they’re caught, the penalty for stealing some meat from a supermarket might be a fine of some £200 which of course they cannot conceivably pay, or it might be 6 weeks in prison.
“IDS supervises the sanctioning (though it’s outsourced to a privatised firm doing his dirty work for him), while Grayling takes care of the imprisonment.
“This is the treadmill of impoverishment to which this government is now sentencing hundreds of thousands of people every year, a crescendo of wanton harshness out of all proportion to the treatment meted out to other miscreants.
“During and after the Napoleonic wars there were up to 200 offences for which a person could be hanged, usually for stealing to keep their family alive.
“The people of this country sitting on the juries finally got round this draconian repression imposed by the ruling class by refusing to convict. That is what juries and magistrates should do now when faced by the stark injustice of the criminal justice system.
“MPs who 5 years ago stole big ticket expenses to which they were not entitled, including many on both front benches, suffered no penalty worse than being named and shamed in the newspapers, with no more than half a dozen fall-guys, not the main offenders, sent to prison for a few weeks.
“Not a single banker has been prosecuted for presiding over the wrecking of the financial and economic system by the most brazen arrogance, recklessness and incompetence, even though it has ravaged the lives of millions of innocent people.
“None of the super-rich who have been avoiding due payment of taxes by the most artificial forms of contrivance have ever been personally brought to book and sent down.
“We are now seeing one law for the rich and another for the poor in its most vicious and nasty form.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 01 Dec 2014
Nuisance beggars in Newcastle City Centre are making up to £200 a day, according to a charity boss who is warning people not to hand over their cash.
> How could he possibly know how much someone makes ?
Kind-hearted folk who have been responding to the beggars’ requests for spare change have even seen one man walk away with £360 from a day on the streets.
> Again, how do we know this ?
Stephen Bell, chief executive of homeless charity Changing Lives said the money is being used to fund addictions and people would be better giving them food and a hot drink if they want to help.
“People are begging to fund one habit or the other, whether it’s alcohol or drugs, and that’s the bottom line. We’ve heard of a case where someone pulled up in their car, changed clothes and then started begging. Beggars at the moment are getting an awful lot of money,” said Mr Bell.
> “We’ve heard of a case where someone pulled up in their car, changed clothes and then started begging.” But how do we know its true ? Surely its an allegation rather than a fact.
This claim actually mirrors a Sherlock Holmes story (I forget the title) where a man finds he can earn more as a beggar than by slaving away in “proper” job. He catches the train up to London (his wife thinks he’s doing a normal job), changes into his begging gear in a rented room, and then goes to work.
He said it is crucial for the public to realise the distinction between someone who is begging and a homeless person.
There are currently services across Newcastle which work with the city’s homeless and enough bed spaces for people so that no one has to spend a night outdoors. Changing Lives also do a daily check at 5.30am on how many people are sleeping rough in the city centre.
However over the last two years he said there has been a significant increase in begging.
> And a significant increase in sanctions. Coincidence ?
“Please do not give money to beggars. Give them a drink or a hot meal or give your money to a charity. We need to stop killing people with kindness. The police can help, they can move people away from main streets, but inevitably they just move them to another place. Not giving money genuinely does work, there would be a drop in earnings,” he said.
The warning comes as Northumbria Police is revealed to have made a record number of arrests for begging in 2013 with 61 people detained.
While statistics are still being compiled for 2014, figures for arrests are considerably reduced and police have said it is not their aim to prosecute beggars, but instead help them to work with charities.
Newcastle Superintendent Bruce Storey said:
“The reason the figure went up in 2013 was on the back of an increase in reports to police about concerns around the issue of beggars and begging, primarily in the Newcastle city centre area.
“These concerns came from local residents, visitors to the area and local businesses in the city centre and the issue has been, and continues to be, a priority for the city centre policing team.
“Our aim is not to arrest or prosecute beggars. We are keen to ensure those who need help are given it and we are running operations where we work together with charities and partners to identify those who need help or support and ensure they are given assistance.
“Northumbria Police and our partners are doing everything we can to assist genuine homeless people, whilst tackling those individuals who come in to the region to beg then leave.”
Newcastle City Council have said the roll-out of tougher powers handed to authorities put a stop to aggressive and persistent beggars from the Government have been delayed until January.
Eventually councils will have the legal power to give beggars injunctions in an attempt to prevent nuisance and annoyance to the public, and to compel them to accept accommodation and to get help for drug and alcohol abuse.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Nov 2014
Operation Dollar has been launched on the back of increased concerns about people begging in North Shields town centre and Front Street, Tynemouth.
Officers from the local Neighbourhood Policing Team will be carrying out high visibility patrols as well as working with other agencies such as the Changing Lives scheme which aims to help homeless people.
Members of the public are being advised to help and not to give money to beggars.
North Shields and Tynemouth Neighbourhood Inspector Geoff Cross said:
“Beggars can be intimidating to some people and put them off from going to certain areas.
“Begging itself is an offence and it is often the case that people who are begging are involved in other crime and anti-social behaviour that has detrimental effect on the community.
“We want people to be able to visit Tynemouth and North Shields without fear of being harassed by beggars.
“Most people begging need help and support or help of some kind, and organisations such as Changing Lives can help put them in touch with the correct support and ensure they get the right help.”
“By ensuring those found begging are directed to the correct support it’s hoped we can reduce the amount of begging taking place on the streets.”
> I wonder in how many cases ‘the right help‘ put them on the streets in the first place ? As we know, Iain Duncan Smith believes sanctions help people focus on getting a job… how many sanctioned people have had to take up a ‘job’ begging as a result of them ?
Source – Whitley Bay News Guardian, 11 Nov 2014
Government welfare reforms may have contributed to a rise in shoplifting in South Tyneside over the last year, councillors were to be told tonight.
Members of the council’s Riverside Community Area Forum are to receive a report on the ongoing impact reforms to our welfare system are having on borough residents.
The report, from Helen Watson, the authority’s corporate director for Children, Adults and Families, says reforms have “possibly contributed” to a 17 per cent increase in shoplifting over the last 12 months that accounts for an additional 60 offences compared to the previous year.
There has also been a significant increase in the use of borough food banks over the same period – with an extra 50 per cent in referrals over the last 12 months.
The report adds: “The evidence is that the number of residents in South Tyneside subject to benefit sanctions has increased by about 35 per cent since the introduction of a new, stricter regime in October 2012, and that many continue to be affected by delays in payments.”
The meeting takes place at South Shields Town Hall at 6pm.
Source – Shields Gazette, 30 Oct 2014
Reposted from The Guardian – Comment is free
What would you do to keep your baby from starving? Perhaps the same as Lucy Hill. At the start of October, the 35-year-old mother from Kidderminster was broke. After missing an interview at the jobcentre, her disability benefits had been stopped – which left her, her partner and her toddler of 18 months without anything to live on. So she went to the local Spar and stole a chicken and some soap powder.
Two weeks later, Hill was up before the magistrate. Her police interview noted that she said “sorry to the shop … but had no money … and was in a desperate situation”. She was ordered to pay compensation, a fine, costs and a surcharge: a total of over £200 to be taken off someone who’d only committed a crime because she had no money. Her solicitor…
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