SPEECHLESS: Claire Foulds, above left, with the letter from the county council and the piece of fence which impaled Ben, above right. Picture: Mike Southon. To order this photograph call 0844 4060 262 and quote Ref: BNMS20110329H-003_C
ACCIDENT SPOT: The area where Ben went over the fencing, at the top of the stone wall, and plunged to the ground. Picture: Mike Southon. To order this photograph call 0844 4060 262 and quote Ref: BNMS20110329H-007_C
A COUNCIL has apologised after a teenager paralysed in a cycling accident was told he must pay for damaging the railings on which he was impaled.
Ben Foulds, 18, was nearly killed when he collided with the railings on Old Sticklepath Hill.
He landed head-first on a road 15 feet below and part of a railing went eight inches into the side of his body.
His injuries included a broken back and a swelling of the brain.
He is undergoing rehabilitation but is unlikely to walk again.
Last week he received a letter from Devon County Council saying he would have to pay for the cost of repairs to the railings.
The letter, from a council finance officer, said: "It has been reported to me that you caused damage to a section of railings alongside the highway which belongs to Devon County Council.
"The council is entitled to recover the costs from the person responsible for the damage.
"An invoice will be raised in due course in respect of the cost of these works, and sent to you for settlement."
Ben told the Journal: "I would not have expected them to send out a letter considering I nearly died, just because I broke their railings in the process.
"We have no intention of paying it. When my mum first told me, I thought it was quite funny."
His mother, Claire, with whom he lives in King Edward Street, was astonished.
She said: "It's amazing the council would send something like that.
"It is quite insensitive considering he is still in hospital and is in a wheelchair because of the accident. I was speechless when I read it."
She has passed the letter to her solicitor, saying: "I couldn't be dealing with it. We have enough on our plate and we don't want another thing like this to deal with."
The letter did not say how much the bill would be.
When the Journal contacted Devon County Council it issued a statement apologising for the letter.
A spokesman said: "This letter is a mistake and should not have been sent. We will not be asking the family to pay for the damage. We apologise to them for the concern and distress that this may have caused them."
He said the Council had not been aware of the circumstances of the incident when the standard letter was sent to the family.
After the accident in November, Ben was sedated for two weeks at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.
In December, he was transferred to the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Odstock near Salisbury.