CONVICTED criminals have been helping to run a 200-acre country estate as a way of making amends for their misdemeanours.
Eight-strong teams have been working at Bickley Hall Farm, near Malpas, the headquarters of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, as part of the Government’s Community Payback initiative.
This sees offenders carrying out unpaid work as part of their sentences.
Jackie Hulse, the trust’s head of estate and land management, said: “It’s been a massive help to us as it would have taken a long time for our volunteers to do it all and that would have meant our being unable to do other work elsewhere.”
The offenders’ first job was to clean up an old shippon for use as a classroom for trust members and local children. They have also erected fences and planted hedges.
Ash Boss, 21, from Chester, who was ordered to carry out 140 hours of unpaid work, said: “When you see the lines of hedges it does give you a sense of achievement.”
Anthony Prosser, 23, from Neston, who was ordered to complete 100 hours, carried out planting in the depths of winter.
He said: “I’ve done things like cleaning graffiti, painting and clearing churchyards previously, but this is definitely the best from my point of view.”
Steve Collett, chief officer of Cheshire Probation, said: “Community punishments are hard work, restrict liberty, but crucially encourage rehabilitation and reduce reoffending. It is physical work for the offenders but also has tremendous benefits for the community.
“The scheme shows that when people commit offences they have to repair and put right what they have done wrong in the first place whilst giving something back to the community.”