Judge ‘taking a hard line’ on begging

Judge Barney McElholm
Judge Barney McElholm

A local judge has said he is ‘taking a hard line’ against what he described as ‘a gang of professional beggars’ who fly in and out of Romania in shifts.

District Judge Barney McElholm made the comment as he jailed 29-years-old Florica Crina Ispas for shoplifting.

Ispas, of no fixed abode, admitted stealing a bottle of vodka from Tescos on March 23.

Derry Magistrate’s Court heard the defendant and an unknown male entered the store and went to the alcohol section. The male lifted the bottle of vodka handed it to Ispas who concealed it and walked out without paying.

The theft was captured on CCTV.

During police interview, Ispas said she had forgotten to pay as she was on the phone to her children in Romania.

She claimed she did not know who the male was and denied he had asked her to steal the vodka.

Defence solicitor George Copeland said his client is a Romanian national who came to Ireland six weeks ago on a travel visa and was sleeping on the streets.

Judge McElholm told the court he had been briefed by both the City Centre Initiative and the PSNI about this.

He added these people were not street drinkers and flew in and out of Dublin in shifts. The judge said they are a gang of ‘professional beggars’ who are all ‘living very well at home.’

He said if these people were truly indigent they would be entitled to help and support.

The judge added: “These people do a great disservice to the homeless. They are a professionally organised gang who come here to beg on the streets and take advantage of the good nature of the people here.”

Judge McElholm jailed Ispas for two months.