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Boston street drinker first to be prosecuted in country

A man seen persistently consuming alcohol in Boston's drink-control zone appeared in court on Monday in a case which is a first in the country.

Paul Homewood (66), of 5 St Leonard's Close, Boston, admitted breaching a community protection notice (CPN) issued after he continuously ignored warnings after drinking alcohol in the town's Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) area.

Boston magistrates heard he was seen drinking in and around the town centre on no less than 13 occasions between January 13, 2015 - the day after the PSPO came into effect - and March 30, 2016. On the first occasion he was sent a letter outlining what he had done wrong and giving notice of the action Boston Borough Council could take.

Further incidents followed when Mr Homewood was seen drinking alcohol at the bus station, near PC World, outside the Len Medlock Centre, near the railway station and in and around the town centre and a letter sent after he was seen drinking in a public area on June 22 advising that anti-social behaviour legislation could be applied.

He was again seen drinking in the open on July 15 and was given a letter warning that if he carried on he would receive a CPN.

He was again seen drinking within the PSPO area on August 9 and August 23 and the CPN was served on him. He was seen drinking in the PSPO area on October 19 and October 22 when he was told a community protection notice would be in force from November 12.

Mr Andrew Goldsborough, prosecuting, said Homewood was then seen on Christmas Eve drinking near Boston Stump and new information had been received that he was seen drinking in the PSPO area again as recently as March 30.

Homewood's two daughters were in court to support him and handed a written statement to the magistrates which included a doctor's letter.

Homewood was given a 12-month conditional discharge. There was an application for legal costs of £300 and investigation costs of £1,096. Homewood, who is on benefits, was ordered to pay £100 costs and a £15 victim surcharge within 14 days and told to undergo an assessment and any other intervention necessary from Addaction for six months. His daughters said he was also seeing DART in Boston - Drugs and Alcohol Recovery Team.

Cllr Stephen Woodliffe, Boston Borough Council's portfolio holder for community safety, said: "It is sad to see a man in court because of alcohol, but in this instance numerous warnings have failed to have any effect on this person's behaviour. The council has a duty to use whatever powers it has available to remove this nuisance from the streets in Boston. The borough council was the first in the country to use the PSPO legislation, following complaints from the public about street drinking. And by now being the first to take legal action against a street drinker we demonstrate that we will use the powers at our disposal."

What are the street drinking rules... and how did it come to this?

The sun's shining, it's warm out - what could be the harm in meeting with a few friends and sharing a few cans of lager? But in Boston town centre and other areas drinking alcohol is not allowed.

How did we come to this? Well, a few cans of lager led to a few cans more (or something a bit stronger), some had too much to drink, got noisy and generally anti-social.

And that was unnerving for members of the public passing by, going about their business, mothers with children, who felt intimidated by out-of-control drunks.

There was often drink-related litter left strewn about and, when a drinker was caught short, public urination... and worse.

Sadly, that was the situation in parts of Boston town centre just a few years ago. Naturally there were demands from the public for the council and police to do something about it.

The legislation at that time meant action could only be taken if a street drinker, as they have become known, was in possession of alcohol and at the same time engaged in anti-social behaviour, or, in the opinion of a police officer, likely to engage in that sort of unpleasant behaviour.

Now the rules are tougher. Boston town centre, along the river banks, Central Park and Witham Way Country Park are all no-go zones for consumption of, and possession of, alcohol. The official name for the rules governing these areas is PSPO - Public Space Protection Order. Essentially it means there is zero tolerance of street drinkers in these areas.

A police officer, spotting a street drinker, has the power to demand they give up their alcohol - it will likely be poured down the nearest drain in sight of the drinker - and take their details so, in the first instance, they can be sent a warning letter.

A drinker refusing the officer's request to give up the alcohol can be arrested and charged with an offence, which could lead to a court appearance, a conviction which will remain on their file and could count against them in future, and a fine of up to £500.

Since January , 2015, 432 first warning letters have been sent. Most people respond to the warning and do not repeat offend. But four are being taken to court who have allegedly ignored repeat warnings.

Cllr Stephen Woodliffe, Boston Borough Council's elected member with responsibility for community safety, said: "We are not trying to be spoilsports. However, we don't want the activities of street drinkers to spoil the enjoyment of the outdoors for others. There are appropriate places for people to meet friends for a drink - a public house, over a meal at a restaurant, in their own homes or, when the weather is nice, during a barbecue in the garden. Gatherings of predominantly men on the streets of this town, drinking alcohol, is intimidating for many, and even more so when we see the worst effects of excess consumption."

Insp Andy Morrice, community policing inspector for the Boston area, said: "The local police recognise the impact that street drinking has on the community, and will continue to work closely with the council to prevent and enforce these issues, bringing further prosecutions where necessary"