A judge said he would not jail a former Ulster Defence Regiment soldier for begging because of the “inordinate” cost to the public purse - but warned him it his “last chance”.
District Judge Liam McNally was speaking to 60-year-old Alex Getty who has been in court several times charged with begging on the streets of Coleraine.
In recent weeks Getty has been a regular fixture on Ballymoney Street in Ballymena where he has been seen approaching scores of local people to ask for money.
In July the judge adjourned sentencing Getty until now after he told him to get help for a scratchcard gambling addiction which fuelled his begging.
The judge said it was too expensive to put him in custody for a month, saying: “I don’t want the state to pay an inordinate amount of money to keep you in custody but if you are going to keep on begging I’m going to do it.”
Judge McNally said he will defer sentencing for six months and if there is any re-offending Getty will go to jail for two months - one month for the current begging offence and a month for a suspended sentence for a similar matter.
Getty, of Trinity Drive, Ballymoney, had pleaded guilty to a charge of placing himself at Coleraine’s Railway Place in May this year “to beg or gather alms” contrary to the Vagrancy (Ireland) Act 1847. A defence solicitor previously said Getty has a scratchcards addiction and suffers from schizophrenia. He was a former member of the UDR and was involved in an ‘incident’.