Roma gypsy first to be convicted for begging
Woman fined for harassing and obstructing people in Dublin city
Published 29/05/2011 | 05:00
A 28-YEAR-OLD Roma gypsy woman has become the first person to be convicted under new anti-begging legislation for harassing and obstructing people in Dublin.
Ecatarina Tanase, with an address in Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin, was arrested twice in February and March under the new Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act which was passed into law in February. She appeared before the District Court last Tuesday having received free legal aid.
The two charges against her were brought by Sergeant Jarlath Keogh of Store Street garda station and Garda Philip Farrissey of Pearse Street garda station.
Sgt Keogh said he observed the defendant begging from an elderly man at the bus stop in O'Connell Street at 4.15pm on Friday March 4. "She had her hand out and was standing in front of an elderly man who kept turning away from her so he was not facing her."
He said he told her "to desist from that behaviour and leave the vicinity".
He said she walked around the corner to Bachelor's Walk on the Liffey Quay. He said he followed her and "two minutes later" observed her again begging at the door of a shop.
He arrested her and took her to Store Street garda station where, in response to the charge, she replied: "I want to apologise for begging. I was waiting for my sister."
The court also heard from garda Philip Farrissey, of Pearse Street garda station, who said he had arrested Ms Tanase in Temple Bar on February 25 and also charged her under the act. "She was obstructing members of the public. She was holding a cup and putting members of the public in fear," he said.
Counsel for Ms Tanase, Mr Steven Dixon, told Judge Dermot Dempsey it was his view that the State had not properly published the Act and that at the time of the offence it was not up on the Government website. "It was not available," he said and cited a case before the European Court of Human Rights on the proper publication of legislation. He said the defendant could not have committed an offence if she had been unaware that her actions constituted an offence.
He produced a printout of the government web page on which the act was absent and handed in a letter to solicitors AC Pendred confirming the act had not been published on the website.
Sgt Keogh argued that the act had been published and handed a copy of the act to the judge to show the publication date of February 2 last. He also quoted the relevant section from the law book, District Courts Practice and Procedure in Criminal Cases on "commencement" of criminal legislation being the date of publication.
Judge Dempsey rejected the defence's argument saying that "80 per cent of the people who come through the courts here" might argue the same claim.
Mr Dixon also argued, citing a Supreme Court judgement on "reverse onus of proof", that the State had not proved that the defendant did not have a permit to ask members of the public for money. He also said the evidence given by the two gardai did not prove that Ms Tanase had obstructed, troubled or harassed the public.
Sgt Keogh replied that when he arrested her on Bachelor's Walk, "she was obstructing people going into and out of the shop" which was why he arrested her under the section of the act on obstruction. He also said the man at the bus stop was clearly troubled.
Judge Dempsey said he would not convict in respect of the arrest in Temple Bar but did convict on the arrest in Bachelor's Walk. He fined Ms Tanase €100 and released her on a surety of €250 with a month to pay the fine.
More than 200 people were arrested by gardai in the two months after the publication of the act. There had been no anti-begging law for three years after the Supreme Court found that the old laws were unconstitutional.