Street beggar with 180 convictions banned from town centre

Colchester High Street. Picture: Jessica Hill

Neville Dickinson is now banned from a range of town centre streets, including Colchester High Street - Credit: Archant

A "thorough nuisance" of a street beggar with a haul of more than 180 convictions during a 57-year criminal career has been banned from a town centre without a minder.

Neville Dickinson was back in court yet again after approaching members of the public in Colchester town centre to ask for money on six occasions in July and August last year.

He "grumbled and swore under his breath as he was refused money", with the incidents putting him breach of a criminal behaviour order imposed on December 11 2019.

He was also subject to a suspended 12-month prison sentence for breaching an anti-social behaviour at the time of the latest offences.

Sentencing the 70-year-old at Ipswich Crown Court, Judge David Pugh said: "Mr Dickinson, you a thorough nuisance."

Citing Dickinson's 177 previous convictions for 345 offences - the first of which was committed when he was aged just 13 - Judge Pugh said: "I wish I could tell you how much it costs every time you go through the judicial system.

"You must've cost this country an absolute fortune - and here you are with another six breaches of a criminal behaviour order."

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Judge Pugh said he would ordinarily be sending Dickinson, of Ayloffe Road, Colchester, to jail.

But after hearing how Dickinson is "making improvements" in his life, he decided to suspend the eight-month jail sentence for 24 months.

That means Dickinson will not go to jail - but could be taken to prison if he offends again during the suspension period.

Instead, Dickinson must complete a 35-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

He is also banned from going to High Street, North Hill, East Hill, St Isaac's Walk, St John's Street, Headgate Street and Head Street in Colchester unless he is accompanied by his key workers.

Mitigating, Donal Lawler admitted that "one's jaw hits the ground" when confronted with Dickinson's litany of offences.

Mr Lawler also said Dickinson has the unenviable title of being "the oldest surviving street drinker in Colchester".

But he highlighted how Dickinson's key workers had been "providing support every single day" and had helped him to get rehoused in a bungalow.

Mr Lawler added of the key workers: "The community should be really proud of them."

While he admitted there are "considerable challenges and they are not going to go away", Mr Lawler said: "There has been progress there has not previously been."

Judge Pugh added: "I would express my appreciation for the work being done by your key workers.

"It's clear that, with their assistance, they've got you rehoused. 

"Mr Dickinson, you are clearly making progress and I hope you continue to do so.

"I understand it's difficult but please, let's not have you back in the criminal courts again."

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