West Cumbrian women's appeal over feeding birds
Last updated at 19:51, Thursday, 05 July 2012
One of the women appealing against a conviction for feeding birds in her garden broke down in tears while giving evidence at Carlisle Crown Court today.
Monica McIntosh, of Broadacres, High Harrington, and her daughter Janet are appealing against their convictions and sentences for breaching an abatement order to stop leaving food out for birds, served on them by Allerdale council in June last year.
The pair were found guilty of breaching the order at West Cumbria Magistrates Court in December and were fined £500 each.
The third day of the appeal heard Monica McIntosh deny all the allegations made by her neighbours that she and her daughter had continued to feed birds after the notice was served.
She told the court she’d had a number of disputes with her neighbour, Arthur McCullough, before the bird problems began.
She claimed that during one dispute, about a fence, Mr McCullough pushed and slapped Janet and threatened both of them, and then she broke down in tears in the court.
Mr McCullough was cross-examined earlier in the day after giving his evidence on Wednesday.
Johnathan Clarke and David Birrell, who are defending Monica and Janet, accused Mr McCullough of lying and exaggerating evidence to twist the view of the court.
Mr Clarke suggested that Mr McCullough had been involved in a number of disputes with the McIntoshes in the past and that he had an axe to grind, something which Mr McCullough denied.
Mr McCullough said: “It is about the pigeons, nothing else. I’ve nothing against them apart from the pigeons.
“The whole of my property, the cars and the decking are covered in pigeon droppings.
“I can be sat out on a nice summer’s day but you cannot be relaxed because of the pigeons flying overhead and you just don’t feel comfortable.
“They are an absolute menace and it is the sheer amount of pigeons that is the problem.”
Mr Clarke said that his client had not fed birds since the notice was served. Mr Birrell also highlighted previous problems between the neighbours including a court case where Janet McIntosh was acquitted after being accused of trying to stab Mr McCullough with a knife. He also highlighted that despite Mr McCullough’s daily monitoring of the birds, he only had photographs of them feeding from the garden on July 21.
The court was shown photographs of Mr McCullough lying on a sun lounger in his garden.
Mr Birrell said: “You are exaggerating the situation and it is not half as bad as you would have the court believe.”
A photograph which Mr McCullough had said showed Janet McIntosh carrying a bag of seed to the bottom of the garden for the pigeons was actually her with a kettle to fill a bird bath. Mr McCullough’s wife Agnes and another resident of Broadacres, David Drysdale, also gave evidence.
The court was shown video footage on Tuesday, shot by neighbour David Ellison on July 21, which showed hundreds of birds on the McIntoshes’ roof, constantly swooping into their garden.
It also showed around 40 pigeons fighting to get at food on a bird table in the women’s garden.
Mr Ellison said the video had been made on that day because the McIntoshes were out of the house.
He said the problems had started in 2006, when they also had problems with rodents and contacted pest control who dealt with the rats but said they could not do anything about the pigeons.
Mr Ellison added: “It is the sheer volume of the pigeons flying over your property all the time. The video does not give a full indication of the noise when they take off.”
He said there could be up to 600 birds flying over his property and that they went to the McIntoshes several times a day to feed.
Between July and August 2011, he added, birds were going to the McIntoshes’ garden daily from 6am to as late as 8.30pm and at many intervals throughout the day.
Peter Daley, Allerdale council’s regulatory service manager, told the court on Monday that it had received reports from Broadacres residents in February and March 2011, complaining about the noise and droppings from large amounts of pigeons that they believed were coming onto the estate because they were being fed by the McIntoshes.
Mr Daley met with the McIntoshes on June 29 2011 and served them the abatement order.
He said: “The purpose of the meeting was to ask them about what amount of bird food they were depositing and then decide whether to serve the abatement notice.”
He said that they told him they put out two trays of bird food that were topped up in the morning, at lunch time and in the evening if necessary.
Mr Clarke said the abatement notice was drawn up prior to the meeting and argued that Mr Daley had already decided to serve the notice before hearing what the McIntoshes had to say.
Mr Daley denied this, and added: “What I wanted to find out from the meeting was whether they were prepared to take any action to alleviate the problem.”
Mr Clarke asked Mr Daley if he had asked the McIntoshes to voluntarily change their feeding, to which he replied “no”.
Howard Stainthorpe, former environmental health officer for Allerdale council, also gave evidence.
Prior to the complaints about pigeons, Mr Stainthorpe had written to the McIntoshes and visited their house following reports of rodent infestations which may have been exacerbated by bird feed.
He said he was asked by the police to visit the property in January 2011 but was satisfied with the manner of bird feeding and there were no problems with pigeons when he visited the address at that time.
Susan Ellison, who lives next door to the McIntoshes, told the court that she could not hang out her washing or sit in her garden because of the pigeons.
She said she could hear them cooing and flapping and could not settle in her house because of them.
She claimed the problems had been going on for around six years but confirmed that they had only been reported to the council in February last year.
She said that although she had not seen the McIntoshes putting out food for the birds since they were served the abatement order, she believed they were still feeding them because large numbers of pigeons were still dropping down into their garden.
The appeal continues.
First published at 19:21, Thursday, 05 July 2012
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
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