A man has been fined by magistrates after repeatedly claiming to be collecting for a cancer charity near big public events in Leeds without a licence.
Richard Charles Matthews, of Stanley Road, Burmantofts, was found guilty at Leeds Magistrates Court of five separate charges of conducting an unlicensed collection in a public place. He was fined £125, with costs of £420 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30.
The court heard that Matthews had claimed to be collecting for Cancer Research UK outside the Leeds Loves Food festival in June last year, outside a rugby match at Headingley Stadium in July and near the first direct Arena three times in November and December.
This was despite warnings from Leeds City Council licensing enforcement officers, who told him he was acting illegally. He claimed he believed he was on private land and therefore did not need a licence.
Councillor James Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for strategy and resources, which includes licensing, said:
“We have a licensing system for street charity collections for a reason, and that reason is to ensure that all cash collected in a charity’s name actually makes its way to them. Our officers will only issue a licence if they are satisfied the collector has proved they are acting with the full authorisation of that charity.”
The first incident took place in Cookridge Street, Leeds, on June 5 2016 outside the Leeds Love Food Festival in Millennium Square. Matthews claimed to be collecting for Cancer Research UK and people were seen to place money into a bucket. The defendant, who was wearing a hi-vis jacket and a photo ID badge, was advised by a city centre liaison officer that he could not collect money in a public highway without a street collection permit.
A warning letter was sent to him explaining why he had committed an offence and he was invited to attend a formal interview with council licensing enforcement officers but failed to turn up.
On July 15 2016 he was spotted by an off-duty council enforcement officer carrying out a street charity collection on St. Michaels Lane, Headingley, outside a rugby match. Despite wearing a blue Cancer Research UK t-shirt he could not produce a street collection permit. He was told to stop collecting and leave.
He then attended a meeting with council licensing enforcement officers on July 21, but this was cut short on the advice of his legal representative. A further interview was arranged with him to discuss the offences but he did not turn up. His legal representative did attend but said he had been unable to contact his client.
Matthews was again found by council officers to be conducting street charity collections without a permit on three separate dates outside the first direct Arena on Merrion Way on November 11, November 26 and December 6.
He was fined for all five offences by Leeds Magistrates on February 8.
Street collections in a public place are governed by the Police, Factories, etc. (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1916.
To carry out a charity collection in a public place a permit authorising the collection must be obtained from the local licensing authority beforehand. A person who collects without a permit is guilty of a criminal offence; the penalty is a fine not exceeding £200. Free permits can be obtained from Leeds City Council’s entertainment licensing department. Further information and guidance on how to apply for a permit is available on the council website here: street collection permits
The permit process not only provides a safeguard for bona-fide collectors, but should also act as a deterrent to those intending to carry on an illegal street charity collection for personal or fraudulent gain.