COMMON sense prevailed at Brighton Magistrates’ Court when the protracted saga of Ashley Hackett’s begging case came to an end.

After being caught begging by officers – one in plain clothes who was helped by one who was off duty – he was hauled before the courts twice.

He will not be brought back again as he has been punished for failing to consent to a drugs test, so while it is now over the whole sorry episode has cost him.

But this has cost all of us. We can safely say that these cases cost £1,000 each to take to court and Hackett’s was the 16th case in two months.

But on top of the cost to the public purse, it is the very public reaction since The Argus broke this story that is clear.

More than 30,000 people have since signed a petition calling on the force to stop using plain clothes officers to catch out beggars and criminalise them.

The whole practice leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Plenty of us do not like being approached and asked for cash in the street, but using our cherished police force in this way has certainly been seen as a step to far.

The force has explained its very good reasons behind it.

Those on the streets who fail to engage with support services are being left to float dangerously, often their lives beset by drug use and other problems.

Pulling them into the station and through the courts was seen as a way to help them.

But we need to find a different way to engage them with support if we are to avoid the public storm thrown up by Hackett’s case in future.

If we do not then the sorry saga will continue.