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Nuisance firestarter arrested by police chief

A nuisance who has plagued visitors to a Middlesbrough shopping centre has spent a day behind bars after being arrested by Cleveland Police's Chief Constable.

Recently appointed Chief Constable Richard Lewis was out on patrol in Hemlington with a Police Community Support Officer when they spotted Neil Michael Plews in the Viewley shopping centre.

A day earlier the 45-year-old, known as Plewsy, was given a court order banning him from the area due to a score of incidents of anti-social behaviour.

When he was pointed out by the PCSO, Mr Lewis used his power of arrest and Plews was then locked up.

The Chief Constable said: "After launching our recent public consultation on Neighbourhood Policing, I spent some time working on the front line with our brilliant PCSOs.

"In the course of a shift my colleague pointed out an individual who was committing an offence and I simply arrested him. I would not ask my staff to do anything that I wouldn't do myself.

"It is important that senior leaders understand what life is like in communities and with front line staff which is why patrolling with them and speaking directly with communities is so important to me."

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston added: "I'm a huge fan of Richard Lewis and the fact he was out on patrol in an area that has issues around anti-social behaviour I think is great.

"As for the other guy, I feel really sorry for him, he is obviously a troubled individual - nobody would sensibly choose that lifestyle but we have to protect the public."

The following day at Teesside Magistrates' Court Plews, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to breaching the injunction, however as he had already spent 24 hours in custody the district judge in the case chose not to sentence further.

Among Plews' behaviour that led to Middlesbrough Council seeking an injunction against him were incidents including starting fires, throwing rubbish, swearing and shouting threats, aggressively begging and being a nuisance in other ways.

In one bizarre incident he was found in the One Stop shop sitting in a freezer eating biscuits and in another was seen changing his clothes in public exposing his bare behind. On one occasion he was seen lying face down on the floor snorting a white powder.

He has also attempted to enter nearby houses and garages - terrifying the occupants - and started numerous fires in bins and bushes, even denying one despite holding a lighter in his hand when he was apprehended at the scene.

Middlesbrough Council has taken action after trying repeatedly to help Plews into accommodation and provide support for his issues - all of which has been refused.

One approach to offer support to Plews was met with him shouting "I don't want any help, now f*** off".

The court order bans him from the shopping centre and the nearby residential area known as the ‘Cs', and means he can also be jailed or fined for shouting and swearing, begging and starting fires.