A heroin addict who was caught begging in the centre of Belfast was jailed yesterday after appearing in the city’s magistrates’ court.
Peter Stuart McElroy admitted four charges linked to two separate incidents he was involved in earlier this year.
The 29-year-old, of no fixed abode, was arrested on March 24 after police were called to Donegall Place following reports of a man begging in the street.
A prosecutor said that McElroy was observed approaching a number of females, some of whom opened their bags and gave him items. When he was arrested and cautioned, he made no reply.
Police were called to the same area of the city centre on April 18. On this occasion, it was reported that a group of men were acting suspiciously outside the McDonald’s restaurant.
As police approached the group, officers saw an object being dropped on the ground. McElroy was standing beside the object – which the court heard was a black-handled knife with a four-inch blade – and as he was being arrested, he tried to headbutt an officer.
He continued to struggle as he was being handcuffed and also tried to spit in an officer’s face.
The prosecutor said the incident occurred in a busy area of the city where “members of the public were present, including children”. He was subsquently charged with disorderly behaviour, assaulting police and resisting police.
Defence counsel Luke Curran said McElroy was a heroin addict who was currently on the waiting list for a place in rehab.
Pointing out his client was not charged with any offences linked to the knife, Mr Curran said there was “nothing sophisticated in the matters before the court”, especially the begging offence.
Deputy District Judge Noel Dunlop handed McElroy concurrent two-month sentences for each of the four charges he faced. A three-month suspended sentence was also activated, meaning he will serve a sentence of three months.