Jail for the pigeon lady of Penge

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The Independent Online

A pensioner who repeatedly broke a court order by feeding pigeons near her home was sentenced to 56 days' imprisonment by a judge yesterday.

Jean Knowlson, 68, had irritated her neighbours by feeding pigeons near her home in Penge, Croydon, south London, leading to complaints over the pigeons, rats and environmental decay since 1989.

Last July she served four days of a 28-day jail sentence before being released. She reoffended, leading to another High Court appearance last December, where she apologised and promised to stop distributing bread. She broke the promise, which led Croydon Council to bring yesterday's case, the fourth attempt to stop her.

Although the court was told that social services had declared her "not mentally ill," the judge recommended that legal aid be made available to fund further psychiatric inquiries.

Sentencing Mrs Knowlson yesterday, Mr Justice Butterfield said: "In short, the defendant's conduct has been anti-social, dangerous and wholly unjustifiable, however genuine and well-intentioned she may be. Her conduct has been persistent and deliberate in the face of every effort to persuade her to stop."

The judge added that he could only ensure that Mrs Knowlson would stop the feeding by imprisoning her. He said she had been the cause of "grave environmental problems, considerable distress and potential danger to the public."

The judge told of the "prodigious" quantity of bread bought by Mrs Knowlson, sometimes more than 100 loaves a week. He said it was distributed from dustbin liners on roads, car parks, embankments and car parks near her home. After she promised not to repeat the offence in December, she had gone into Croydon town centre in the early hours of the morning to feed the pigeons.