Monday, 30 November 2015

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Cumbrian man in court for chopping up fallen tree

A man has landed in court for chopping up a fallen tree for firewood.

Nicholas Hanna, 23, was caught with his chainsaw logging up the lower branches of a nine-metre Scots pine which had come down in a conservation area in west Cumbria.

The tree – which would have cost £6,420 to replace – was the property of Allerdale council and was on a “green corridor” used by red squirrels.

He was initially charged with theft but that was dropped when the prosecution at Carlisle Crown Court accepted there was no evidence that he had actually felled the tree himself.

But he was charged with criminal damage instead, on the basis that he was working on the tree after it had been felled – either by the wind or deliberately by someone else.

Hanna, a Sellafield electrical engineer who is currently off work with anxiety and depression, pleaded guilty to that offence.

But he denied a charge of common assault on council parks and open spaces officer Kirsten Mawby by pushing past her and knocking a camera from her hand as he left the scene, and that charge was dropped when the prosecution realised that not even Ms Mawby thought it amounted to an assault.

Prosecutor Becky McGregor said local residents called the council on February 28 when they heard a chainsaw being used in a small wood between Alexander Close and Chaucer Road in Workington.

When Ms Mawby arrived she found Hanna, wearing a high-visibility T-shirt, working on the tree. Nearby was his van labelled “Tree Services”.

Hanna, of King Street, Maryport, said he was “doing it as a favour” but was arrested after Ms Mawby called the police because he was “uncooperative” with her.

He later said that on an earlier visit he saw the tree had fallen, so he had gone back there with his chainsaw to get free firewood.

In mitigation defence barrister Greg Hoare said Hanna was in financial difficulties so had taken the chance to get some firewood for nothing.

He had only taken about five or six relatively small branches and had nothing to do with it being felled, he said.

“He didn’t appreciate at the time that it was a conservation area,” he said. “If he had, he would not have got himself involved.”

Judge Barbara Forrester accepted that Hanna had not chopped down the tree. “You just went to cut it up to use it for firewood, without making any inquiries about who it belonged to or whether or not it was necessary to ask anyone’s permission,” she said.

Hanna was ordered to do 60 hours’ community work and pay £200 compensation.


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