Homeless man threatened to smash Jobcentre woman’s head through a window

tis. Harrogate Magistrates Court. 311208ARpic14.
tis. Harrogate Magistrates Court. 311208ARpic14.

WHEN a homeless man was denied a crisis loan by staff at Harrogate’s Jobcentre ‘‘the red mist came down’’ and his behaviour left workers fearful and intimidated, the town’s magistrates were told last Thursday.

They heard how Steven William McKenna had gone into Berkeley House in Victoria Avenue on February 7 to enquire about a loan after being left with 23p in his pocket.

Prosecutor Steven Ovenden said the 43-year-old fork lift truck driver had been told he had already received one crisis loan and should request a review, though one might not be possible that day.

McKenna, now living in Harrogate’s Bower Street hostel, became angry and abusive towards staff and told one woman he would put her head through a window.

Mr Ovenden said security staff were alerted and they monitored McKenna when he left the centre. When told he would not be allowed back in he clenched his fists and threatened to ‘‘sort out’’ one of the guards. ‘‘Careful, or I’ll knock your head in,’’ he said.

As he left the area he was seen by the woman who had tried to help him to draw his finger across his throat, a move which left her fearful and intimidated.

When McKenna pleaded guilty to behaviour provoking fear of violence being used, he also admitted causing harassment, alarm or distress by using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour.

Mr Ovenden told court chairman David Uffindall the offences were aggravated as McKenna’s behaviour had targeted public servants trying to help people back into work at a time of cuts. They had a difficult enough job without having to put up with behaviour like McKenna’s.

In mitigation Geoffrey Boothby said McKenna, who was single and unemployed, received Jobseeker’s Allowance. He had been feeling angry and frustrated at events over the days leading up to his offending.

He had worked until the middle of January and had then signed on at Berkeley House before going to London, where he had been told there was work for a fork lift driver, on his motorcycle. While work was available he was unable to register with an agency because he did not have an address. He spent a week sleeping rough and ran out of money.

He got a crisis load for food and petrol to get him back to Harrogate where he went to the Wesley Chapel night shelter. The Friday before his offences he received a £7 loan and was told to go back later. On the Monday he was told: ‘‘Not today, you’ll have to come back tomorrow.’’

Mr Boothby said it was then McKenna lost his temper. The red mist came down and he said things he should not have done. He had just 23p in his pocket and felt he was ‘‘being pushed from pillar to post.’’

Ordering McKenna to do 40 hours of unpaid work and pay £85 costs Mr Uffindall told him: ‘‘These offences were on premises where public servants were doing their job and this is a particularly aggravating factor.’’