A cricket club groundsman who drove his all-terrain buggy over a child’s cricket bat, after he accused a picnicking family of damaging the green, was spared jail today (12/3).

Clifford Gatford, who had worked as groundsman at Windsor cricket club for 20 years, “saw red” when he thought the family, with young children, were using the wickets and the cricket square.

The 55-year-old had sworn at the children, aged 10 and 13 years, causing them to fear they would be assaulted, a court heard. One of the children pushed him over in response, a court heard.

Gatford, who was around 2.5 times over the drink drive limit, returned to the scene 20 minutes later, driving the all-terrain buggy, described as a John Deere Agric Tractor, he used for the maintenance of the cricket fields.

Dramatic video footage played in court showed Gatford driving past the picnicking family and their dogs twice, at speed, getting dangerously close to them on the Romeny Lock Road and home park at Windsor cricket club.

Prosecutor Sarita Basra told how on May 29 last year, Gatford drove over the family’s picnic blanket, damaged some of their food items and broke one of the children’s £100 cricket bat.

The footage showed Gatford, wearing his orange hi-viz jacket and a baseball cap, stopped his buggy and told the family: “I told you, you cannot play on the wickets.”

Lauren Sales, defending, said Gatford had no previous convictions and that he had “severe learning difficulties, as well as a speech impediment”.

“He specialises in ground works, specifically cricket pitches”, Ms Sales said. “His vulnerabilities meant he behaved in the way that he did.

“He managed to hold down that job for 20 years and he lost it because of that behaviour.”

Gatford appeared in Reading Crown Court today after having admitted dangerous driving, driving with excess alcohol, threatening behaviour, criminal damage to the cricket bat and common assault in that he put the child in fear of violence and driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence.

Judge Neil Millard told Gatford: “I well understand the time and preparation that goes into preparing a grass cricket wicket and the year and hours that are required to do so. However, that does not excuse what you did next and I think you recognise that.

The judge said he would have considered jailing Gatford, but because of his vulnerabilities gave him a 12 month community order, including 15 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement days and 150 hours unpaid work.

Judge Millard also ordered Gatford, of Vale Road in Windsor, to pay £100 compensation to the family for a new cricket bat. 

“Clearly you are a man who likes cricket”, the judge added. “You recognise the child should have a new cricket bat and you will pay for that.”