Grandpa Facing Charges For Cleaning Public Path


When pensioner Jim Higgins decided to clear the brambles from a footpath at the bottom of his garden, he was only trying to help.

Many of his neighbours stopped by to thank the former police officer for all his work – which saw him replace a dilapidated fence and build a seat for weary walkers.

But not everyone was so delighted by the grandfather’s efforts. Soon Sustrans, the charity which owns the footpath, announced that they had health and safety concerns over his homemade bench.

Grandpa Facing Charges For Cleaning Public Path

Good deed: Jim Higgins and his dog Nell in front of the path he painstakingly cleared in Cumbria

Following a complaint from the charity, Mr Higgins, 65, was called in to be questioned at his local police station in Whitehaven, Cumbria. He has now been told that he could be charged with the theft of the old fence.

Last night Mr Higgins said: ‘I am worried sick that what I believed was a good deed for everyone in the village is going to end up with me having a criminal conviction.

‘I have nothing to hide, I admit I did it. But never did I imagine anyone would be anything but happy. I’m finding it hard to sleep at night and am worried about the future.’

Mr Higgins – who lives with his wife Cath – has six children as well as two young grandchildren. He says he had already asked Sustrans to replace the broken-down fence.

But he finally decided to take matters into his own hands after his dog Nell became impaled on one of its rusty spikes.

He said: ‘Nell didn’t see the spike, which had become buried by the overgrown vegetation, but it punctured her skull and it is only thanks to the skill of a clever vet that she survived.

‘But it wasn’t only the fence that Sustrans had neglected and allowed to fall into disrepair – the footpath was a jungle of dangerous brambles that snagged horse riders, walkers and cyclists.’

When Mr Higgins spotted a couple of volunteers from Sustrans, he mentioned his plans to replace the fence. ‘They seemed pleased that I was offering to sort it out, so I ploughed on’, he said.

Labour of love: Mr Higgins and Nell with his homemade bench built for weary walkers

Labour of love: Mr Higgins and Nell with his homemade bench built for weary walkers

After cutting down the brambles at the bottom of his garden, Mr Higgins removed what remained of the old fence and sold it for scrap to help pay for new wooden posts.

Meanwhile he got on with the back-breaking task of clearing away the brambles and started to fashion a homemade bench.

‘It took me the last month to clear it,’ he said, ‘But it was worth it to see people being able to use that path properly for a change. When a few people stopped me outside my house and said what a good job I’d done, I felt really proud.’

Neighbour Marilyn McCarthy, 60, said: ‘Everyone believes Jim has enhanced the footpath. It used to be an eyesore but now it looks lovely. We are all upset at the way he’s been treated and horrified he could be prosecuted.’ Sustrans spokesman Eleanor Roaf said: ‘Health and safety is really important to us and we ask that people talk to us before doing anything on our land to avoid any risk to the public. We are waiting to hear whether the police wish to press charges.’

Last night a police spokesman said: ‘Cumbria Police are investigating allegations received from another party in relation to property being removed.

‘Whilst this investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment.


One Response

  1. 5WarVeteran says:

    Never let a good deed go unpunished. The new US Government motto.

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