Pensioner, 66, is wrongly fined £150 for littering after he went to feed the ducks at the park

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Pensioner, 66, is wrongly fined £150 for littering after he went to feed the ducks at the park

  • William Varnham visited Watermead Park, Leicester, with wife and disabled aunt
  • He fed the ducks from a plastic container in a designated duck-feeding area
  • Fine from Leicester City Council arrived at his door saying he threw ‘crumbs’ 
  • £150 fine has since been cancelled after Mr Varnham appealed to the council

A 66-year-old pensioner suffered ‘sleepless nights’ from being wrongly fined £150 for littering after he went to feed the ducks at the park. 

William Varnham visited Watermead Country Park in Leicester with his wife and 99-year-old disabled aunt to feed the animals with suitable bird seed from a plastic container. 

The family then got back into their van parked a few yards from the designated duck-feeding area and went home. 

Mr Varnham was left shocked a few days later when a £150 fine for littering from Leicester City Council landed on his doormat accusing 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: ‘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. 

When the council fined Mr Varnham it added that it has a problem with 'huge amounts of food' being offered to the birds in city parks and told the pensioner in a letter that fixed penalty notices can be issued to mitigate 'incorrect behaviour'. Pictured: Ducks at Watermead Park

When the council fined Mr Varnham it added that it has a problem with ‘huge amounts of food’ being offered to the birds in city parks and told the pensioner in a letter that fixed penalty notices can be issued to mitigate ‘incorrect behaviour’. Pictured: Ducks at Watermead Park

‘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 and he never gives them bread because he knows it is bad for them. 

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He then contacted the city council to appeal against the fine and says he became more anxious and upset while he was waiting for a response.

Mr Varnham explained that he only feeds the ducks in a designated feeding area and being fined £150 caused him a great deal of stress

Mr Varnham explained that he only feeds the ducks in a designated feeding area and being fined £150 caused him a great deal of stress

‘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,’ he said. 

Mr Varnham added he vaguely recalled 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?’

William Varnham visited Watermead Park with his wife and 99-year-old disabled aunt to feed the animals. He was accused of dropping bread crumbs from a plastic container from his car while parked on a disabled spot

William Varnham visited Watermead Park with his wife and 99-year-old disabled aunt to feed the animals. He was accused of dropping bread crumbs from a plastic container from his car while parked on a disabled spot

The pensioner ended up emailing 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’.

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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, said the council have ‘called his honour into question’ and he fears other innocent park visitors could fall foul of the same treatment.

A spokesperson for Leicester City Council said: 'Not only does over-feeding affect the ecosystem of the park, it also attracts rats.' [File image]

A spokesperson for Leicester City Council said: ‘Not only does over-feeding affect the ecosystem of the park, it also attracts rats.’ [File image] 

A spokesperson for Leicester City Council 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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