In the Media

Pensioner fined ?50 for feeding pigeons

PUBLISHED July 10, 2006

An outraged pensioner told yesterday how she was fined ?50 for feeding crumbs to pigeons.

Beryl Withers, 81, had just finished eating a sandwich during a lunchtime shopping trip when she emptied out the remaining crumbs for the birds.

But as she moved to put the empty packet in the bin she was stopped by two council wardens who told her she had broken the law.

The yellow-coated wardens demanded her name and address and warned her she faced a maximum ?2,000 fine.

The incident happened in Nottingham, recently branded the most crime-plagued city in Britain and notoriously overrun by guns and drugs.

Last night dismayed Mrs Withers, the daughter of a policeman, condemned the authorities for targeting pensioners while criminals run wild on the streets.

The retired antiques dealer said: "I have never put a foot wrong in this country in all my days. I have paid all my taxes and have never been to prison.

"I have no doubt that if my father could somehow know what was happening to his daughter he would be spinning in his grave.

"It would break his heart to see the powers-that-be concentrating on defenceless people like me instead of tackling proper crime.

"I don't know what has happened to the law and its priorities. I feel completely outraged by what has happened to me."

Mrs Withers served in the Women's Royal Naval Service during the Second World War and skippered a 75ft-long motorboat delivering mail to British warships in the English Channel.

She was stopped by the wardens outside the city's Victoria shopping centre last week.

A flock of around half a dozen birds were loitering nearby and Mrs Withers said it "seemed natural2 to share the crumbs of the chicken sandwich with them.

"They started to peck the crumbs off the pavement", she said.

"When I moved off I even made sure to put the bag in a waste bin, but I had only gone a few steps when these two yellow-coats appeared.

They said "That's a ?2,000 fine' and asked for my name, address and age. I didn't even know at first what they were talking about.

"Then they said I would be hearing from them. I was so angry that I marched straight to the nearest police station to make a complaint.

"I told them they had more than enough crime in Nottingham to tackle instead of having council wardens picking on old ladies like me.

"There's no two ways about it - crime and violence are rife here. You would think they would have enough on their hands dealing with that."

The three times widowed pensioner received her fixed penalty notice two days later, with a letter declaring she had been "seen emptying the contents of a bag to feed the pigeons".

The pensioner, who paid the fine yesterday, said she had previously been fit and healthy, but the stress of the incident had brought on several nosebleeds.

Mrs Withers' father, Jack Wright, was a policeman in Nottingham all his life and eventually retired as one of its most respected inspectors.

Nottingham City Council stood by the fine, saying the crumbs were classed as litter and littering was an offence met by a fine.

Environment spokesman Brian Grocock said: "Food waste makes up a significant proportion of the litter cleaned up by the council every day.

"Dropping food, even if to feed pigeons, represents a real health risk. It attracts rats."

In the past three years the council has issued more than 2,000 fines for dropping litter, an offence that carries a maximum fine of 2,000 pounds.

In May, research compiled using police statistics and population data by the Reform think-thank showed that Nottingham had 115.5 crimes for every 1,000 residents, four times the level of the safest towns.

Already dubbed Gun City, it also had the highest number of murders per 100,000 population, with 5.21, and featured in the worst five towns or cities for robbery, burglary, assault, rape and gun crime.