Beggar was ‘taking the mick’

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A CITY centre beggar has been ordered to pay a fine after setting up in Church Street to beg for money.

Lee Howarth 34, of Marsh Lane, Preston, pleaded guilty to gathering alms at Preston Magistrates after spending a night in the cells.

The court heard Howarth had a history of begging, having previously pitched up close to the market.

John Rimmer, defending, said: “He used to sit with his cap out.

“He used to play a musical instrument - not very well, but of course if you play an instrument you are not begging.”

In recent years he has been living with a partner and has not taken to the streets to raise cash.

However he had been asked to leave the house and was spotted at around 11.15pm on July 18 begging near a cash machine in Church Street, Preston.

PC Ashurst was patrolling the city centre and asked Howarth to move on.

Howarth moved a short distance down the street and continued to beg.

Mr Rimmer said: “It appears PC Ashurst thought Lee was taking the mickey.

“There was a full and frank exchange of views as to what the officer meant.”

The court heard Howarth became abusive to the officer and was arrested.

When he was taken into custody he had £38 in coins on him.

He appeared at Preston Magistrates Court the following day and pleaded guilty to gathering alms.

The court heard he has a number of previous convictions including theft and public order but had not committed any offences of begging since 2009.

Howarth is in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance.

Magistrates ordered him to pay a £35 fine, £30 costs and a £15 victims surcharge.