Beggar spared jail for harassing the elderly while they’re in isolation

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A woman who caused anxiety to elderly people in isolation by pestering them for cash late at night during lockdown has been spared jail. Emma Richie, 39, from Redcar, also spat at a Morrison’s worker who asked her to move on when she was caught begging outside the supermarket. She never claimed to have coronavirus, but Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard many of the pensioners she harassed feared ‘she may have the virus and spread it’. District Judge Helen Cousins told Richie she had committed ‘horrible’ offences and handed her a 16-week sentence, suspended for 12 months.

The court heard the heroin addict repeatedly knocked at the homes of elderly or otherwise vulnerable people, many of whom were self-isolating, after 9pm on March 30. Cleveland Police said they received 19 calls about her behaviour, with one resident telling them: ‘Not only was I concerned someone would knock on my door so late, it did cross my mind, because of the coronavirus, she may have the virus and spread it.’

Richie was spotted begging outside Morrison’s the following day and twice spat at the shop worker who tried to usher her away. Similarly concerned with the added threat of Covid-19 he too reported her to the police. A community support officer later spotted Richie begging again and she was eventually arrested on April 1 after being seen knocking at car windows looking for money. Richie admitted a public order offence, assault, begging and breaching coronavirus regulations during her first court appearance two weeks ago. Defending, John Clish told the court she had no convictions up until last year, when her heroin addiction spiralled out of control. He added: ‘The motivation has simply been to get money to feed her addiction.’

District Judge Cousins explained that she would have imposed a six-month sentence, which was reduced to 16 weeks following the guilty pleas. She suspended it for 12 months in light of the two weeks Richie has already spent on remand and fined her £85. Richie must also complete 20 days’ rehabilitation, take a drug treatment course, abide by a curfew between 6pm and 6am and pay £100 compensation to the supermarket worker.