Imprisoned for feeding the pigeons

We have been in touch with an elderly man who received a series of Community Protection Notices, Civil Injunctions, and now a Criminal Behaviour Order, for the offence of feeding the birds. The gentleman says that feeding the birds has helped him with grief after the loss of his partner, and with alcoholism and mental health issues.

This is someone who requires help and sensitive treatment. Yet the council has responded only with criminalisation, issuing a series of legal orders and breach prosecutions, one of which resulted in a 15-week spell in prison. The man says that the council’s actions have left him ‘a wreck’ and quite ill. He is struggling to pay his latest £600 fine for CPN breach.

Here is his statement giving a summary of events.

I’m nearly 70, and I am a vegan bird lover, and feeder of the less-liked birds such as pigeons and seagulls. I’ve had several CPNs and now a Criminal Behaviour Order just for feeding the birds.

I started feeding birds with my mum in the 60s. In recent years feeding the birds has helped with my grief, depression, and ongoing sobriety. I owe them. I lost my partner, mother, brother, and best friend in the space of a few years. I haven’t drank since 1990.

My first CPN for feeding the birds was in 2016; then a civil injunction was issued. In 2017 there was another CPN and in 2019 another injunction was issued. In 2020 I was arrested for breaches and held for one day. At my breach trial, the council had four members present, all saying things that were exaggerated, including lies from the next-door neighbour who hated birds (and poured disinfectant on my balcony). The judge was horrible. I tried to tell him about how feeding the birds saved me from drinking again, and helped my grief. I had a solicitor, who said that it was a mental health issue, but the judge disagreed. He offered no compassion for my severe grief and very fragile mental state, and told me that I was sentenced to 15 months prison for several breaches.

I was taken away in a prison van, in solitary because of covid, and held with nothing in a cell for 10 days. In prison I nearly died – I had a doctor and nurse check my blood pressure every day because they said it was the highest they had ever seen and it was critical they bring it down. In reality, the sentence was only 15 weeks – I received a letter saying it was 15 weeks – and I was released after 11 weeks. I was very ill, and I didn’t return to the flat because I had lost that, so I stayed with a friend.

In 2021 a CPN was issued for feeding in three places, including the woods. In 2022, I had a fine of £100 (a fixed penalty notice) from the council. In 2022 I was given a magistrate’s court date for breaking the CPN. In 2023 I was fined £590 for continued feeding, with statements from around 10 local people, included with photos of me and a lot of made up stories. I paid this fine from my pension, and I had to not eat much.

I phoned the police several times for harassment and abuse from these people, who were shouting at me from across the street, calling me a rat feeder. One person with his dog followed me in the woods and began filming me. I confronted him, he hit me on the chin and ran off, but the police said there was no proof.

In 2024 the council took me to the Magistrate’s court for another breach hearing. I didn’t have a lawyer and I didn’t go to the hearing, I couldn’t handle the attention with my ptsd and anxiety, I couldn’t cope with that since jail in 2020. I was given another £600 fine and a Criminal Behaviour Order, which bans me from ‘depositing loose seed’ in various locations.

I’m behind paying this latest fine. I’m a wreck because of the council, quite ill. I was punished for nothing really.