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City of Penticton taking panhandler back to court

The City of Penticton is taking a well-known panhandler back to court, alleging he didn’t hold up his end of a plea agreement for several bylaw infractions.

Last September, Paul Braun pleaded guilty to eight bylaw infractions for obstructive panhandling near a pedestrian breezeway in the 200 block of Main Street.

The city hired a private lawyer and spent almost $30,000 prosecuting the case. On the day the case was to proceed to trial, it was announced that a plea deal was reached.

WATCH: (September 2018) Penticton panhandler banned from 200 block of Main Street

Penticton panhandler banned from 200 block of Main Street
Penticton panhandler banned from 200 block of Main Street

Braun was ordered to pay $145 in fines and court costs, perform 60 hours of community service and comply with the bylaw.

The bylaw states that panhandling is prohibited within 10 metres of pedestrian breezeways, ATMs, bus stops or public washrooms.

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The court order also prohibits Braun from attending within ten metres of the 200 block of Main Street for one year.

READ MORE: Controversial Penticton sidewalk sitting ban results in drop in loitering complaints downtown: city

The city alleges that Braun failed to complete the community services hours required and the fines are still outstanding.

On June 5, Braun appeared in court for failing to comply with the court order and entered a not guilty plea.

Meanwhile, Penticton mayor John Vassilaki revealed at Tuesday’s council meeting that the city attempted to have Braun arrested for the bylaw violations.

Vassilaki questioned Supt. Ted De Jager of the Penticton RCMP Detachment as to why police refuse to arrest individuals for bylaw offences.

Demonstration held in support of panhandler facing court action by City of Penticton
Demonstration held in support of panhandler facing court action by City of Penticton

WATCH: (January 2018) Demonstration held in support of panhandler facing court action by City of Penticton

De Jager said police officers’ powers of arrest are under the Criminal Code and reserved for Criminal Code offences.

“The notion of using the Criminal Code and the powers of arrest… to address a social issue or an issue of poverty will never fly with the Supreme Court and puts my members in the position where they are breaching the law to do that,” he told the mayor and council during a quarterly update.

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READ MORE: Panhandlers on Salmon Arm sidewalks may be fined $50, thanks to new bylaw

Vassilaki asked for better co-operation from police.

“We had our own prosecutors to come in and handle this case and they got no co-operation from the detachment at all,” the mayor said. “We had to go the long route which took nine months, instead if the RCMP had co-operated with them, it would have only taken maybe two to two-and-a-half months.”

To which De Jager responded, “co-operation, absolutely, using powers of arrest on a bylaw, I can’t see a situation where the courts would condone that.”

The one-day trial is scheduled for November 20.