AN alcoholic who pretended to be homeless to beg for money on the streets has been banned from going near almost every cash point in Warrington.
Stephen John Johnstone, aged 41, of Archer Avenue, Latchford, has also been banned from entering the centre of Stockton Heath Village after hounding people to hand over cash.
Residents and shop staff had reported him to the police for begging on a daily basis, spitting on the floor, and urinating in shop doorways.
Witnesses said that after they complained to Johnstone, who is on benefits and has a home, he said ‘I’m not bothered, all I’ll get is a £15 fine, and have to walk back from Runcorn to Warrington, so it’s not that bad’.
A criminal anti-social behaviour order - known as a CRASBO - was approved at Halton Magistrates Court on Friday.
It means Johnstone, who smelt strongly of alcohol in court, cannot use, or loiter within 10m, of any external cash point in the town.
He is only allowed to use the ATM at the Old Market Place Post Office to collect welfare payments.
The defendant claimed he only begs when his benefit money runs out.
District Judge Bridget Knight said: “You are not a homeless man, you have got an address.
“You give the impression you are homeless so people feel sorry for you.
“You need to cut it out.”
Police say it is the first time a CRASBO has been enforced in Stockton Heath.
It was enforced after Johnstone pleaded guilty to eight counts of begging at Halton Magistrates Court on January 14.
The court heard how was seen begging on many occasions between September 11 and December 12, last year.
Police say he targeted Stockton Heath as an affluent area he was likely to make money begging.
Haunts used to scrounge included cash machines at Sainsburys on London Road; the doorway of shops; and the steps of Forge Shopping Centre.
Witnesses described as ‘intimidating’ and ‘abusive’, with female staff at Sainburys scared to lock the store up when he was outside.
Johnstone was also ‘sarcastic’ to anyone who refused to give him money saying ‘have a nice life’.
He was fined £35 and told to pay £15 costs.
Since pleading guilty, the defendant was again arrested for begging on Tuesday, March 18, outside of Sainsburys.
Police will take no further action after the CRASBO was passed last week.
Judge Knight warned Johnstone a breach of the order could result in a prison sentence of up to five years.
Following the case, PC Michelle Adamson said: “We have got to do our best for the businesses and public.
“People who gave this man money thought he was homeless and didn’t know he was on benefits, and had a house.
“He was begging money to feed his alcohol addiction.”