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Go-ahead for council's town centre beggars and booze ban
COLCHESTER has become the second place in the country to get tougher powers to tackle street drinkers and beggars.
A judge has approved Colchester Council’s application to stop people carrying open containers of alcohol on the streets, or begging.
The order, called a section 222 injunction, means repeat offenders can be prosecuted by the council, facing a penalty of being jailed for up to two years, or subjected to an antisocial behaviour order.
The application was supported with 11 statements from town centre businesses and visitors.
A statement from one dad described walking past a group of nine drinkers and a woman, who was passed out at St Botolph’s underpass, with his four-year-old daughter.
Staff at Shoe World, in High Street, gave a statement saying they had been threatened and abused by people coming into the store and beggars blocking the entrance.
Judge Catriona Murfitt, sitting at Chelmford County Court, said: “I can see the impact by those who drink in open public areas, misuse other substances and beg as a significant problem on others.
“I can see it inhibits shoppers in various different outlets and staff are being intimidated.
“Parents with small children are exposed to loud and boisterous behaviour and various degrees of undress, lewd behaviour and urinating in public places, all of which can be upsetting and not a good example to set for young children.
“I can see this is a real issue which needs to be grappled with and police action so far has not got to grips with resolving the issues, albeit their tools might not be suitable.”
The judge said there was a particular problem with drinkers at St Botolph’s Church.
She said: “People are not using the ruins, graves or benches due to the rowdy and loud behaviour.
“Offence is caused by the disrespect to the dead interred there.”
Offenders will initially be given a warning and pointed towards help from charities, such as Open Road, Mind or the North East Essex Drug and Alcohol Service.
The judge said: “An important part of this provision is it goes hand in glove with an aim to marry up the services to help those who struggle with a serious problem with alcohol or drugs.”
It is the second section 222 injunction of its kind to be granted in the country, after Birmingham.
A designated public place order has been in place in the town centre since 2006, allowing police to confiscate alcohol from someone if they are connected with antisocial behaviour.
How the order works:
THE order covers an area bordered by Southway, Balkerne Hill, Middleborough, Brook Street, Magdalen Street and East Hill.
Castle Park is excluded from the ban.
It includes St Botolph’s Priory and St Botolph’s Circus roundabout where there have been long-standing problems with street drinkers.
Rebekah Straughan, the council’s lawyer, said Castle Park was not included because it could stop people having picnics and holding events there.
The order does not ban drinkers at pubs and bars standing in beer gardens, or close to the door of the licenced premises.
The order runs indefinitely and will be enforced by police and the council’s street wardens.
There will be a four-week grace period before the order comes into force.
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