An aggressive beggar who has vowed to turn his life around after a stint in prison has been banned from begging in Nottingham for three years and ordered to take steps to address his drug taking and chaotic lifestyle.
Christopher Hands, aged 28, of no fixed abode, has persistently been begging in Nottingham city centre since early 2017, placing himself in a sleeping bag in prominent city centre locations such as Clumber Street, Exchange Walk and Chapel Bar, blocking access into premises and causing obstruction to passers-by.
He often placed a sign next to him asking for donations for food and shelter, but when street outreach teams consisting of homelessness support charities, the police and City Council officers tried to offer him the help and support he clearly needed, he persistently and often aggressively turned them down.
When officers carried out welfare checks, Hands would react by making threats to harm himself, claiming he was being harassed, and on one occasion ran into moving traffic from his position blocking the entrance to Broadmarsh shopping centre on Collin Street. On other occasions he would refuse to allow passers-by access, making threats to assault uniformed officers and verbally abusing members of the public concerned for his welfare.
Following previous convictions for begging, Hands had failed to attend follow-up assessment appointments to address his Class A drug use that were ordered as part of his sentence – prompting further convictions. Last August, his aggressive behaviour escalated in Nottingham city centre, resulting in charges being brought against him for begging and public order offences. After failing to attend court, Hands was arrested and placed on remand earlier this month. On January 18, he appeared at Nottingham Magistrates Court via video link after previously pleading guilty to four counts of begging in a public place, three public order offences of using threatening, abusive words or behaviour, and one of failing to attend a follow-up assessment appointment.
Due to the time served on remand, Nottingham Magistrates sentenced Hands to a 12 month conditional discharge. Hands stated through his solicitor that he now wished to accept the offers of help and support available to him in order to address his lifestyle. He also stated he had developed a £150-a-day heroin and crack cocaine addiction, which was the reason for his begging and aggressive behaviour on the streets of the city centre. After spending time in custody, he had detoxed and wished to continue this improvement.
To help with this, Hands was issued with a three-year Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO) which now prevents him begging in the City of Nottingham and from blocking access to pavements, doorways and business access points also throughout the city. As part of the CBO, ‘Positive Requirements’ were stipulated, requiring Hands to engage with a Substance Misuse Practitioner and carry out a set number of appointments to address his current chaotic lifestyle and to avoid further arrests and convictions against him.
Portfolio Holder for Community and Customer Services, Councillor Toby Neal, said: “This is a case where a young man was clearly begging to feed a heavy drug habit, which was having a terrible effect on his health and well-being and he was having an unacceptable impact on members of the public, the city’s businesses and officers trying to help him. We therefore applied to the court for the CBO to offer protection to those he was affecting. A breach of it could carry a substantial custodial sentence.
“We hope that he will respond positively to the stipulations within the order to attend appointments which will help him address his drug taking and chaotic lifestyle and turn his life around. It is also a reminder that members of the public who want to help people they see on the streets may want to consider donating to homelessness and drug support charities rather than directly to individuals on the street, to avoid unwittingly facilitating substance misuse.”