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'Professional' beggars commiting criminal offences so there's no excuse for lack of action by authorities

letter of the day: street scourge

You make a compelling case (Viewpoint, August 3) for "begging-free zones" in Belfast city centre. However, I find it difficult to accept that the PSNI and other agencies are unable to prevent professional beggars from operating in Belfast.

There appear to be a string of professional beggars operating along the Malone Road, University Street and Botanic Avenue. These individuals are described here as "professional beggars" if only because they are in place Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.

Three have operated from the same pitch for several years now despite police patrol cars passing within a few feet of them dozens of times each day of the working week, and the fourth, who operates from the College Gardens and Elmwood Mews junction with University Road, inherited the pitch from another elderly man, who was there for several years also.

Your editorial suggests that begging is a criminal offence, and certainly that is the information provided by Belfast City Council.

If this is the case, then are the monies handled by these individuals money laundering? And if begging is a criminal offence, then are those who give monies to these individuals also actively engaged in this money laundering process and worthy of a police caution or prosecution - if only to set an example?

Moreover, this raises further questions. Do they pay taxes on these monies? And are they registered with the taxman as self-employed, or with an employer? Have they got a street trading licence from Belfast City Council? And do they have the necessary public liability insurance and other paperwork? Are they on benefits as well as begging professionally and, so, doing the double?

Do they receive unemployment benefit while they're working as professional beggars? And, if so, can they be said to be looking for work when they're sat in the same place nine hours a day for five days (or more) a week every week?

You can see why I'm sceptical of the PSNI and social services and their lack of activity.



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