He wasn’t an active duty solider anymore, but that didn’t stop him from continuing to seek out opportunities to help and serve others. Now working as a carpenter, he kept busy in his free time by doing things such as working with charity.
As part of his work with “Once, We Were Soldiers,” Lee Williamson kept his car stocked up with various supplies for homeless veterans and others in the homeless community.
He would give those items out when he went on patrol to find what they refer to in Britain as “rough sleepers” so they would have some food and clothing to help get them by.
It was Christmas Day and he had just dropped his daughter off at work when he noticed a homeless man outside a bus station, wrote Metro News.
There was no traffic around and no buses were running, so he quickly pulled into the bus lane so he could give the “rough sleeper” supplies from his car.
Williamson explained, “I pulled up and gave him some hats, gloves, scarves and food. He [the homeless man] was absolutely over the moon. I spoke to him for a bit and when I left I didn’t think any more of it.”
But that wasn’t the end of the story. A little over a week later Williamson received a £70 (approximately $97 U.S. dollars) penalty charge notice in the mail for the crime of stopping in the bus lane. He’d been caught on closed-circuit television (CCTV), identified, and tracked down.
— Kazi UK™ ?? (@Kazi_UK) February 6, 2018
Williamson sent an email to the Leicester City Council asking for a reprieve but they refused, citing, among other things, the fact that a cyclist had been killed after a vehicle stopped on double yellow lines and a passenger swung her door open, knocking the cyclist into traffic.
To Williamson, there was a distinct difference between what he did, stopping momentarily to give aid to a homeless person, and doing something such as parking there in order to go shopping.
Willaimson told the BBC that he understood the importance of not stopping in the bus lane, “Normally that is a busy road and I would never dream of stopping in a bus stop. But with it being Christmas Day, with no traffic and buses I could not see the harm in it.”
— Amy Harris (@AmyHarrisTV) February 6, 2018
He added that the amount of the fine was particularly troubling to him, given why he got it to begin with. He said, “I feel like I am being punished for helping someone — £70 could have put a homeless guy in a B&B for a week.”
As word spread of his conundrum, public outrage mounted, with multiple people offering to pay the fine for him. Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby initially refused to back down, however, in an update to the story, Metro News reported that Soulsby had a change of heart.
Although he had previously defended the fine, citing the CCTV as “an important safety measure,” he later told the BBC that “to punish Mr Williamson for doing a ‘good deed’ was ‘absolutely crazy.'”
Although Soulsby did state that other parking was nearby, he confirmed to BBC that the penalty would not be enforced against Williamson.
“It was quite clear what Lee was doing was an act of a good Samaritan on Christmas day and even though it’s important to keep this safe… there are exceptions.”
Williamson told the BBC he was thrilled with the reversal, “That just the news I wanted to hear. Common sense is prevailing. I’m happy with that.” As word spread regarding the reversal, the public expressed their joy over the news, as well, many pointing to it being the common sense thing to do.
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