A NUISANCE beggar targeted customers queueing at a Worcester supermarket during lockdown and refused to leave the city centre, telling a court she had a right to ‘exercise’ during the pandemic.

Marie Ann Baker admitted breaching her Criminal Behaviour Order by begging at Asda and returning to the city centre despite having been ordered to leave by police. The 41-year-old appeared at Worcester Magistrates Court on Thursday where she reluctantly pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the section 35 direction, arguing with her own solicitor, David Howarth, who urged her to admit the offence. Speaking from behind the glass of the dock she said: “You’re allowed to exercise – it’s on the news!”

Baker also said she was ‘waiting for someone’ at the time but eventually agreed to plead guilty after her solicitor said: “You were told to go.” Baker, who has a temporary address of City Guest House in Barbourne, Worcester, was made subject to a two year criminal behaviour order on December 19 last year. Ralph Robyns-Landricombe, prosecuting, said this order prohibited her from soliciting or begging or behaving in a manner likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. On March 24 this year she was issued with a section 35 notice by police which made it clear she must leave Worcester city centre and not return until 8.35pm the next day. Mr Robyns-Landricombe said police saw her on ‘numerous occasions during the next day in the company of her partner.’ “Police officers tried to apprehend the defendant but she evaded them” said the prosecutor.

Police next encountered her outside Asda on April 4 this year where she approached people in the queue to beg. She has 18 previous matters recorded against her.

David Howarth, defending, said at the beginning of April, Baker had been ‘homeless and struggling with her benefits’ and was also admitted to Newtown Hospital because she was ‘hearing voices’. He said in the past she had struggled with heroin but ‘she has been clean now for six months’.

Magistrates decided that it would be unjust to activate a suspended sentence because she would lose her support network and accommodation and it would be detrimental to her mental health. They fined her £30 for begging in breach of her CBO, £30 for failing to comply with the order to leave, ordered her to pay a victim surcharge of £32 and a contribution to costs of £50.