An unemployed man struggling with more than £30,000 of debt has been fined for begging.
Compulsive gambler Martin Bradford, 44, immediately spends his monthly benefits – said to be in the region of £1,000 a month – on roulette machines and relies on begging to survive.
Despite having a home in East Wichelstowe, Swindon, he’ll be found in Old Town, where he wraps himself in a duvet and makes himself appear homeless before asking the public for money.
A community protection notice was issued, prohibiting Bradford from sitting on the floor and loitering.
But he repeatedly breached the notice and he was spotted by PCSO Lishman sat in the doorway of Angel Wilkins, a solicitors’ firm in Wood Street, on 11 September last year.
A few days later, on 18 September, he was found to be begging near the pay and display machine in Britannia Place car park in Hoopers Place.
Appearing at Swindon Magistrates’ Court, Bradford, who was supported at the hearing by a social worker, pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to comply with a community protection notice.
Richard Williams, defending, said his client accepts begging and accepts not being homeless.
He said Bradford suffers from severe mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Whilst he previously used Class A drugs and was an alcoholic, he stopped both in recent years.
“Gambling is his only vice”, Mr Williams added. He told of how his client spends all of his benefits “almost immediately” on electronic roulette wheel machines, leaving him short of the month.
“He can’t afford essentials or basic living provisions, so in desperation, he sits and begs”, he said.
Magistrates labelled his situation “very unfortunate”, and fined him £80. He must also pay £50 costs and a £34 victim surcharge.
Kate Prince appeared for the Crown Prosecution Service.
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