ACTION has been taken to quell the antics of a persistent nuisance who pesters shop, restaurant and pub staff while drunk or under the influence of drugs.

Banning orders were made this week restricting the movements and actions of 33-year-old Lee Godfrey, who has become the bane of shoppers, workers and tourists in central areas of Durham and Chester-le-Street.

Godfrey, of Beechwood, South Pelaw, Chester-le-Street, has also been a regular visitor to both Durham's University Hospital of North Durham and the city's County Hospital for no reason, becoming abusive when asked to leave.

Durham magistrates were told that although not usually violent, he is often foul mouthed and abusive, and his behaviour is often intimidating.

The 25 incidents of anti-social behaviour logged by the police in the past six months have included him walking into restaurants eating food from people's plates and from salad bars, often refusing to leave while drinking from two-litre bottles of cider.

Durham Police solicitor Steve Mooney, outlining the case for an anti-social behaviour order, said: "He pesters customers for money and sometimes puts his fists up when asked to leave."

He said Godfrey has also posed similar problems for staff at Burger King, Yates's Wine Lodge and the Pizza Hut in Durham.

Mr Mooney said: "He does appear to have a mental disorder, but it is largely exacerbated by drink, drugs and failure to take his medication."

He was made the subject of an anti-social behaviour order, which bars him from entering large areas of the centre of Durham, appearing drunk in public, drinking in a public place other than licensed premises, remaining on any premises if asked to leave, or entering premises from which he is barred.

Other terms of the order forbid him from using offensive words and behaviour in public, from entering the two hospitals, except by prior appointment or for genuine medical treatment, or from taking or interfering with other people's property.

Following the hearing, Insp Dick Dodds, of Durham Police, said: "We're pleased this order is now in place.

"It shows we are determined to make Durham and the rest of the area a safe and pleasant place for residents, workers and visitors."

The order is valid for two years.