Veteran sent to jail to survive cold

A court sentenced a homeless former soldier to prison to help him “get through the hardest part of winter” as magistrates felt society had “completely let him down”.Neil Carpenter, who lives in the woods, made dozens of “nuisance” phone calls to 999 – just so he could be sent to jail.

Cambridge Magistrates’ Court also heard how Carpenter, 45, finds his food by searching through bins and waits outside pubs to get discarded alcohol.The court heard Carpenter had just been released from jail when he was seen in the middle of Madingley Road shouting abuse on December 13.Carpenter pleaded guilty to using threatening or abusive words and behaviour likely to cause distress to others, as well as to two counts of making nuisance phone calls to 999.

Paul Brown, prosecuting, said: “He had just been released from prison when he made numerous calls to 999 . . . he wasn’t requiring emergency assistance and became abusive towards the call-taker and was shouting and swearing.“On the same day, police found him in the middle of Madingley Road – cars had to avoid him.”After the incident he was bailed and returned to his “tent in the woods.”

Mr Brown said: “He is not an alcoholic but drink takes him away from reality. He said life is easier if he gets arrested and he can go to prison where there’s a warm bed and food.”On December 15 Carpenter made 27 more calls to 999.Mr Brown added: “The police said they got such a level (of calls) from Carpenter it was affecting their ability to respond to others. It meant staff were unavailable to answer real calls and felt he was putting lives at risk.”

In mitigation, Veronica Candy said Carpenter had been living the life of a “swinging pendulum” between the woods and prison for about nine years. She said he kept a “very tidy” camp, never drank on the streets and refused to be a thief to survive.She said: “He is a complex individual. He has his own reality.”Magistrates sentenced him to 12 weeks in prison for each of the nuisance phone call charges, to run concurrently. No separate penalty was recorded for the public order offence.

Presiding magistrate Martin Savage said: “You’re a pretty unique case. On one hand, society has completely let you down but there’s plenty to commend you for, however clearly you’re making a cry.“We hope this will get you over the hardest part of winter and we hope you get somewhere to live for your sake, and for the sake of society.”

Leanne Ehren for Cambridge News

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