Judge Leo Malone imposed fines on several of them and warned those with previous begging convictions they faced the prospect of jail if they appeared again for begging offences.
“The begging situation is becoming unacceptable and, looking at the number of people doing it in Cork City, I realise that,” the judge said. “The Oireachtas has enacted legislation to deal with the issue. I am charged with upholding the law and uphold the law is what I have to do.”
Judge Malone said to one of the accused, Michael Roche, aged 24, of Park View, Victoria Rd, Cork, who had admitted begging: “If you are coming back here on begging charges, you will go to prison.”
Frank Buttimer, solicitor, said the accused had a lot of problems in his past including an unusual addiction to a form of incense, but had done extremely well in the past 12 months. He had been arrested after 10 am on Tuesday last at St Patrick’s St and charged with actively begging and causing an obstruction to the free passage of pedestrians, an offence under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act. Judge Malone deferred the penalty for two months to allow Roche engage with the probation service.
James Walsh, aged 31, of St Vincent’s hostel, Anglesea Terrace, Cork, was fined €250 for begging at Carey’s Lane on Tuesday.
Garda Mark Barrett and Garda Bryan Murphy gave evidence of arresting 15 defendants for a total of 28 charges since the taskforce had been set up .
Many of the defendants were members of the Roma community, four of whom had their cases adjourned so they could decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty. Solicitor Dennis Healy, who represented many of the Roma defendants, said they resorted to begging in some cases as they were without welfare or unable to get a job.
Fifi Florin, aged 29, of 91 Great William O’Brien St, Cork, was caught begging at 12pm on July 8 in Cork city and was fined €250.
Maria Puica, aged 20, of 30 Orchard Court, Blackpool, Cork, was caught begging on July 10, and had her case adjourned, as she had returned to Romania to see a sick relative. Judge Malone said the question arose as to why she had to beg if she could afford to go to Romania.
Mr Healy said: “They go in bulk by car.”
Bianca Rosca, aged 20, of 80 College Rd, Cork, pleaded guilty to begging on Winthrop St on July 1 and returned to the same street to beg on July 3. She was fined €200 and €250.
Others fined were Neil Sheehan, aged 27, of Cork Simon Community (€200); Nicolae Tudor, aged 30, of 210 Old Youghal Rd, Cork (€200); Ian Kirwan, aged 30, of St Vincent’s, Anglesea Terrace (€450); Edward Power, aged 34, of St Vincent’s (€200); Bombonel Rostas, aged 20, of 29 Orchard Court, Blackpool (€300); Oliver McCarthy, aged 42, of 44 Douglas St (€250).