Serial beggar suspected of assaulting policewoman banned from Belfast city centre

The incident happened in Royal Avenue
The incident happened in Royal Avenue

A serial beggar suspected of breaking a policewoman’s wrist after being challenged in Belfast is banned from entering the city centre, a High Court judge ordered today.

Mr Justice Burgess imposed the exclusion zone as he granted bail to Augustin Lacatus.

The 38-year-old defendant’s wife must also lodge £500 in cash before he can be released from custody.

Lacatus, a Romanian national from Northbrook Street in Belfast, faces charges of begging and assault on police.

The alleged offences were committed outside a bank in the city centre on Monday - three days after he received a suspended sentence for a similar offence under the Vagrancy Act.

His lawyer has already indicated he will be making admissions to the fresh charges.

Police on patrol in Royal Avenue spotted him sitting under a blanket and holding his hands out to passers-by, the court heard.

Prosecution counsel said when the officer approached he stood up, shook his head and said; “No.”

Lacatus started to struggle and tried to escape when she took hold of his arm, it was alleged.

The prosecutor continued: “He then forcefully broke free and in doing so forced the police officer holding him to the ground.”

She went to hospital with a suspected broken wrist, a previous court was told.

Lacatus was detained after a member of the public helped stop him from getting away.

Seeking bail, defence barrister Conn O’Neill said his client’s wife and her family were prepared to put up a £500 cash surety to secure his release.

His disclosure prompted the judge to question why anyone with access to that amount of cash would be begging on the streets.

Mr O’Neill explained that Lacatus had been let down over money owed to him.

He also revealed that the accused’s family have an association with a local car wash.

Lacatus, who arrived in Northern Ireland a year ago, has three previous begging-related convictions.

“It’s a matter of concern that within three days of an order of the court he (allegedly) offends again,” Mr Justice Burgess said.

However, he granted bail on conditions including the surety and electronic tagging.

Banning Lacatus from central Belfast, the judge added: “Begging presumably takes place where you hope to get money, and the best place to get that is where there’s a lot of people.

“If he’s kept well away from the centre of town the market isn’t very big