Volunteer spared jail for 13th ASBO breach in King’s Lynn

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A recovering alcoholic won a reprieve from prison after breaching his ASBO for the 13th time thanks to his community volunteer work.

Lynn magistrates heard Keith Bidwell had been sober for four months, but he breached his Anti Social Behaviour Order on Thursday when he fell off the wagon in a “momentary relapse”.

The 47-year-old, of Wisbech Road, South Lynn, was warned he faced yet another period behind bars for the breach, but he was spared custody when the court heard about his efforts to turn his life around and volunteer work in the community.

His solicitor Ruth Johnson said he had worked as a Lynn Food Bank volunteer, and was also helping Freebridge Community Housing with its ‘Jog On’ youth skills project.

She said: “He has been doing extremely well. He has not come back to court for four months which is quite significant for Mr Bidwell. It sounds shocking to say someone has only stayed out of trouble for four months, but when you look at his previous convictions it’s a massive improvement.”

In her address to the court, Miss Johnson also questioned why the ASBO, banning him from drinking alcohol in public, acting in a way likely to cause alarm or distress or using foul language, was ever imposed.

She said: “He has a horrific list of previous matters relating to breaching the ASBO. It makes you question why it was ever imposed in the first place as it hasn’t actually achieved anything. Its aim is to prevent an act of Anti Social Behaviour but unfortunately this hasn’t happened in this case.”

Bidwell was given the two-year ASBO in 2012, and it expires in March this year.

He appeared before magistrates on Friday and admitted breaching it by drinking in Railway Road, Lynn, and swearing at police officers the day before.

Yvonne Neill, prosecuting, said officers attended a disturbance at 1pm and found Bidwell drinking a can of beer.

He was arrested for breaching one of the ASBO conditions and he started swearing, breaching a second condition.

Miss Johnson said Bidwell had been sober since September last year, and enjoyed Christmas with his family – buying presents for his nieces and nephews which he had never done before.

But she said he fell into a “48-hour crisis” last week when someone living in the same Purfleet Trust accommodation encouraged him back on to the bottle.

She said: “There was another individual who didn’t like the achievements he has been making...they were trying to be negative and working away at the positives he has made.”

Miss Johnson said the idea of going back to prison “panicked” him as he would lose his accommodation.

Georgie Futter, Bidwell’s intensive support worker at the Purfleet Trust, added: “Going to prison would be the worst thing because we would have to start all over again.”

Magistrates congratulated Bidwell on his progress so far, sentencing him to just one day’s detention in the courthouse, with no order for costs.