South Shields street beggar who claimed to be army veteran exposed as fraud in court

Lee Young
Lee Young

A shameless street beggar who pestered shoppers for cash in a busy town centre street by claiming to be armed forces veteran has been exposed as a fraud.

Drug addict Lee Young held up a cardboard sign on King Street, South Shields, with a plea for cash to help fund a roof over his head, insisting he had served with the army from 1981 until 2008.

Lee Young

Lee Young

But a court heard that not only had the 46-year-old never been a serving soldier he also already had accommodation in the town.

Young, of Northcote Street, South Shields, admitted a charge of placing himself in a public place to beg, having previously been convicted of a similar offence, when he appeared in the custody dock at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday, having been arrested by police on the previous day.

He was bailed on the conditions that he does not enter a designated part of South Shields town centre or Jarrow’s Viking Centre until he reappears in court next week

Young was handed an absolute discharge for two previous begging offences in King Street on September 10 and 16, while Newcastle City Council successfully obtained an injunction in June banning him from begging in the city.

He is a persistent beggar

Prosecutor Jeanette Smith

However, magistrates were told Newcastle City Council had offered Young assisted accomodation, which he had turned down before making the move to the borough, first begging at the Viking Centre in Jarrow before heading to South Shields.

Jeanette Smith, prosecuting, said: “He was arrested for begging and was only in court for similar offences last week.

“He is a persistent begger, first in Jarrow and now in South Shields.

“He had a cardboard sign saying he was homeless and asking for food or spare change as he was ex-army from 1981 to 2008.

“He was asking for £27 for two nights accommodation.

“He is not ex-army. He has a drug addiction, which is why he is begging.”

Mrs Smith asked for the sign and any money he obtained from begging to be seized upon sentencing.

John Wesencraft, defending, said: “He has a long history of mental health problems and homelessness.

“The two often go together - and do in this case.

“Given the nature of the offence and the problems he has, you could deal with the matter by way of a discharge.”

David Gouch, chair of the magistrates, said: “We are considering a community order but will ask for a report from the probation service.”

The case was adjourned until Monday for Young to be interviewed by the probation service.