Doncaster town centre beggar sent back to jail

Doncaster Magistrates Court
Doncaster Magistrates Court
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A former burglar was sent back to prison after becoming the latest person to be caught in a crackdown on begging in Doncaster town centre.

Ashley Cottam, aged 28, of no fixed address, was stopped by police while he was begging on High Street, after being released from Doncaster Prison, magistrates were told.

Jo Lewis-Crookes told the court: “The defendant was seen by officers on patrol in the town centre, who witnessed him asking people for money - in other words begging in the street.

“I understand Mr Cottam has been recalled to prison and is down for release very soon.”

In mitigation, Nick Ward said: “Mr Cottam has been recalled until June 5 and pleaded guilty to the allegation.

“It is improbable that his sentence will affect his release date.

“He was released from prison two weeks before this incident. When he was released he got a discharge grant, but his benefits were not up and running. That can take four to six weeks. Mr Cottam had no money.

“To his credit, although he accepts it is a crime, he has not reverted to his previous crime of house dwelling burglary.

“He used food banks in the town centre. He was desperate for money and that is why he did what he did.”

“When the police approached him, they said ‘you’re not one of the regular beggars, we’ve not seen you before’, It was an isolated incident.”

He said Cottam was now involved with NACRO - National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders - and an address for him in Doncaster was being arranged.

He pleaded guilty to begging.

The presiding magistrate, who the court refused to name, said: “You have been in prison because you’ve been recalled until June 5. We’re going to impose a financial penalty of £50 which will be deemed served as part of your sentence.

The bench also imposed a victim surcharge of £30.

Police have been cracking town on begging in the town centre after complaints were raised by the public over this issue.

The number of officers in the area has been increased as part of an action plan.

Police have set up a partnership with other agencies including Doncaster Council, health bosses and housing officials in a bid to solve the problem and prevent those involved from returning to begging.