Pensioner hit with £150 littering fine from Watermead Park in Leicester for feeding the ducks
A pensioner was left confused and panicked suffering sleepless nights after he was hit with a £150 littering fine for feeding the ducks.
William Varnham, from Melton, visited Watermead Park with his wife and 99-year-old disabled aunt, to feed the ducks with suitable bird seed from a plastic container.
The family then got back into their van parked a few yards from the designated bird-feeding area and went home.But Mr Varnham, 66, was left shocked a few days later when a £150 fine from Leicester City Council for littering landed on his doormat which accused him of throwing "crumbs".
The council added it has a problem with "huge amounts of food" being offered to the birds in city parks and told Mr Varnham in a letter that fixed penalty notices can be issued to mitigate "incorrect behaviour".
But Mr Varnham, who has volunteered as a littler picker himself in his home town of Melton, was outraged and says they did absolutely nothing wrong.
He told LeicestershireLive: "We did what we usually do. We drove to the park and got a disabled bay which was yards from the designated bird-feeding area.
"I fed the birds with proper bird feed which I bring from my home, walked back to my van with my plastic container and then sat with my wife and aunt and enjoyed a cup of tea while we watched the ducks."
Mr Varnham is adamant that he only threw bird seed for the ducks, adding he never gives them bread because he knows it is bad for them.
He then contacted the city council to appeal against the fine, saying he became more anxious and upset while he was waiting for a response.
The pensioner added: "I had been preparing to be taken to court over this. It was one of the worst weeks of my life - I had sleepless nights.
"My wife and I are retired, we're in a cost-of-living crisis, I couldn't afford to pay £150. I was so worried that my 99-year-old aunt offered to pay the fine."
Mr Varnham said he does vaguely remember a park warden van parked nearby as he was enjoying his afternoon in the park.
He said: "What I think happened is that the park warden saw some bread or something on the floor, saw me and my empty container and put two and two together.
"But if he believed he had seen me littering, why didn't he approach me there and then - rather than send me a fixed penalty notice? How many other people will this happen to?"
The pensioner has now emailed the city council twice to appeal against the fine and also called them to make sure the authority got his emails.
The council eventually wrote back to quash the fixed penalty notice and admitted the evidential notes from the officer did "not clearly demonstrate an offence to the [expected] level".
However the council added the officer was "not incorrect in their actions" when they decided to fine him.
Mr Varnham, who believed the council used the number plate of his van to track him down, has accused the council of having "called his honour into question" and fears other innocent park visitors could fall foul of the same treatment.
A Leicester City Council spokesperson said: "Mr Varnham’s fine was cancelled on appeal and we apologise for any distress caused.
"We have a problem with huge amounts of food being put down for birds on several of our parks, and we have signs in place across our parks – including at Watermead - advising people of the impact this has and warning them they may face a fixed penalty fine if they do so.
"Not only does over-feeding affect the ecosystem of the park, it also attracts rats, and our ground staff have to spend time clearing up the excess food deposited."
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