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Paul Barker was seen sifting through out-of-date groceries at the back of Tesco in Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham, when the couple were caught on CCTV at midnight on January 5, Sunderland magistrates heard.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“You have to be careful with fish, but most out-of-date food you can eat, but things like bread might be slightly harder.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 Sunderland man has been jailed for taking part in violence at an English Defence League protest.
Stuart Snowball, 24, was one of dozens of troublemakers who were arrested after trouble flared during a rally of the far right group in Birmingham in 2013.
Fifty men have appeared before Birmingham Crown Court over the past five weeks to be sentenced for violent disorder after ugly scenes were witnessed by police and visitors on July 20, 2013.
The court heard how trouble flared within factions of the 2,000 strong crowd with missiles thrown at police.
A number of officers suffered minor injuries as they tried to restore order amongst the violent minority.
West Midlands Police launched an investigation to trace those responsible by studying CCTV footage and appearing on the BBC’s Crimewatch.
Now the EDL yobs have been jailed for a total of more than 75 years with sentences ranging from community orders to three years and eight months prison.
Snowball, of Howarth Street, Sunderland, has been jailed for 13 months.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 13 Jan 2015
The number of households that North East councils prevented from becoming homeless has rocketed in parts of the region.
In South Tyneside the local authority stepped in on 3,208 occasions in the last 12 months, a 123% rise on the 1,437 figure for the previous year.
This works out at a rate of 47.07 per 1,000 households in the borough, almost five times the national average of 10.11.
Meanwhile, in the same period, Gateshead saw a 65% increase from 2,094 to 3,453, an average of 38.28 per 1,000 households.
Newcastle City Council numbers rose 23% from 3,673 to 4,529, which works at 37.89 per 1,000 households.
There was also a small rise in Northumberland and Durham, but falls in North Tyneside and Sunderland.
Figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government show preventions and relief in England rose nationally on average 12% from 202,900 to 227,800 between 2012/13 and 2013/14.
Prevention includes things like resolving problems with housing benefit, advice on debt or rent and mortgage arrears, or mediating with families to stop family members being kicked out.
Relief is when a council has been unable to prevent homelessness but helps someone to secure accommodation, even though the local authority is under no statutory obligation to do so.
Coun Allan West, Lead Member for Housing and Transport on South Tyneside Council, said the figure revealed how a policy initiative it took last year was working.
He said: “In 2013, South Tyneside Council’s Place Committee undertook a Commission scrutinising how homelessness in the Borough was tackled and how well the Council was equipped to deal with future demand.
“This led to the development of our new homelessness strategy which made homeless prevention one of our key priorities.
“This is reflected in our updated allocations policy, which gives priority to people at risk of becoming homeless before their case becomes critical.
“We have introduced a Homelessness Forum with representation from key partners including landlords, Public Health and the third sector.
“The forum ensures a collaborative partnership approach to tackling homelessness, sharing good practice and maximising opportunities for early intervention and prevention for homeless households.
“The review established a post of ‘Homelessness Prevention Lead’ within the Council to continue to develop housing and support options for people at risk of homelessness.”
My life on the streets of Tyneside – by homeless man ‘Carl’
Graduate ‘Carl’ has been homeless, on and off, for 16 years now.
He came to the region from Berkshire to study politics and economics at Newcastle University.
By the time he graduated aged 23 with a 2:1, he was in a secure unit at St Nicholas’ Hospital where he was being treated for Bipolar Disorder.
“They let me out for the day for my graduation ceremony and that night when the other students were out having a drink celebrating I was back in the unit pumped up with drugs,” he said.
He describes himself as a ‘hand tapper’, someone who walks the streets asking for money, making anywhere between £25 and £100 a day.
“The beggars are the ones who put signs around their necks and wait for people to come to them,” he said.
Carl said at the moment he sleeps rough in a city centre car park. “It’s best to sleep somewhere with CCTV as it gives you a feeling of security that someone might see if you’re in trouble and help.”
Over the years he has ‘sofa surfed’ with friends, and stayed in hostels, but nowhere permanent for long.
The money he makes he spends on food, tobacco and drink.
“I don’t drink that much,” he says.
He was a heroin user for six to eight years but has been ‘clean’ since June.
Carl is currently taking heroin-substitute buprenorphine, its trade name is Subutex.
“It’s better than methadone, like Peaches Geldof was taking. You can take other drugs as well as Methadone but not with Subutex.
“You’re supposed to crush it and place it under your tongue. I crush it and snort it like snuff.”
However he added: “I’ll probably have a relapse soon.”
His condition means he’s hyperactive.
“I walk the streets all day. Sometimes I don’t sleep.
“It’s OK at the moment with the hot weather. When its cold you keep moving or you die of hypothermia.
“People in the North east are friendlier than down south so I don’t get much grief.”
He says he stays in touch with family down south. His father is the Governor at a primary school, his three sisters and brothers hold down full time jobs.
“Some of us are just different. I’ve had a few jobs but I’m just not reliable.
“Also, my specialism is international politics and economics. I can’t see many employers in that field offering me a job.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 July 2014
A racist thug has been fined for damaging a mosque after a far-right rally in Sunderland.
Connor McIntosh launched the attack on the Jami Masjid mosque in Chester Road, Sunderland, drunkenly kicking a drainpipe.
The 19-year-old had been at a demo over proposals for a new mosque in Millfield on March 30.
> What I dont get is why they were at the Jami Masjid mosque, and not the site of the proposed new mosque, some distance away ?
Also, I’m told that the new mosque is for a seperate strand of Islam than that followed at Jami Masjid – rather like protesting about a new Baptist chapel outside a Roman Catholic church.
Still, that’s the EDL for you – if you thought too deeply (or at all…) about such matters, they’d probably deny you membership on the grounds of being dangerously intellectual. EDL = Easily Distracted Loons.
He was arrested after being captured on CCTV lashing out at the building.
Sunderland magistrates were told how he ranted about Islam and bragged about being a member of the EDL during his interview with police.
He pleaded guilty to causing racially-aggravated criminal damage.
Penny Bottomley, prosecuting, said McIntosh, an unemployed scrapman, was so drunk at first that he did not know why he had been arrested.
She said: “The defendant, when he was interviewed, was asked why he had been detained.
“He thought it was because he was too drunk, but then said there were too many mosques and they (Muslims) were grooming our kids.
“He said he had a child on the way and he did not want his child getting involved in all of that.
“Then he said the police should stop them burning our poppies.
“He confirmed he was a member of the EDL, and he was the male on the CCTV, and had ripped the pipe off the building himself.”
Jason Smith, defending, said father-to-be McIntosh, of Heathgate, Houghton-le-Spring, had never been in trouble before.
He said: “Usually, this is a matter that should have been dealt with by way of a caution.
“I accept the reason why it was not is because of the nature of the allegation, and because of his involvement with the EDL.”
Mr Smith told magistrates that the protest McIntosh had been to was organised with the “understanding” of the police and that McIntosh had the right to air his views.
He added: “Unfortunately, he had a bit too much to drink, and at the end of the march he caused damage to the drainpipe, then he walked away.
“He did not cause any more damage and he did not shout and swear or abuse anyone.”
McIntosh was fined £110 and ordered to pay £100 compensation to the mosque, along with £85 court costs and a £20 victim surcharge.
Source – Shields Gazette 19 April 2014