AN AGGRESSIVE beggar who ignored all efforts by police to help him change his ways was using the money given to him to fund his addiction to the drug spice.

Blackburn magistrates heard Akira Robinson had been warned between 15 and 20 times since November and had also been offered help with housing and drug counselling.

Robinson ignored a community protection warning in relation to his begging and was eventually arrested on Tuesday when he was caught begging on Grimshaw Retail Park in Blackburn where Asda is situated.

Robinson, 20, of Union House, St Peter Street, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to begging in a public place. He was made subject to a conditional discharge for six months.

Catherine Allan, prosecuting, said there was a problem in Blackburn with people begging in retail areas.

“Customers are being put off going into shops because of this,” said Miss Allan.

“The police have been actively trying to tackle the problem, offering people referrals to housing and drug agencies.

“The arresting officer says he has offered the defendant help on many occasions and he also says his begging is solely to fund his drug habit,” she added.

Ben Leech, defending, said the offence his client had been charged with did not carry a custodial sentence and the police had been wrong to remand him overnight.

“The police have the power to seek criminal behaviour orders so clearly there are ways and means to tackle this problem,” said Mr Leech.

He said Robinson had a troubled upbringing and two days after his 16th birthday had been moved into assisted accommodation by social services.

While he was there he was introduced to cannabis. “That went on to be a spice addiction which he still has,” said Mr Leech.

“He is trying to address that problem and is willing to work with the agencies. He sees begging as the lesser of two evils as he doesn’t want to go out and steal.”

The chairman of the magistrates warned Robinson that things could only get harder for him.

“The action taken by the authorities will get stronger because of the need to protect the public,” he said.

“We do note that you have spent a night in custody for something that is non-imprisonable.”

Police are working with the council and other agencies to crack down on aggressive begging in Blackburn.