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Shopping centre firestarter given court order

A repeat arsonist who has terrorised a Middlesbrough shopping centre has been banned from the area and hit with an order to improve his behaviour.

Neil Michael Plews, known as ‘Plewsy', is well known to shoppers at Hemlington's Viewley Centre for 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".

An order has now been obtained at Teesside Magistrates' Court to ban the 45-year-old, of no fixed address, from the shopping centre and the nearby residential area known as the ‘Cs', to stop him shouting and swearing, begging and starting fires.

Jim Langley, prosecuting on behalf of Middlesbrough Council, said: "Throughout the process of obtaining this injunction Mr Plews was afforded every opportunity to engage with the assistance that Middlesbrough Council and its partners provided.

"However, sadly he rejected such assistance and chose to continue causing anti-social behaviour much to the distress and annoyance of others, as a result the injunction had to be sought and was thankfully granted."

The injunction will be in place for three years.