A grandmother who fed some pieces of bread to ducks while out walking was left bewildered after she was immediately seized upon by a council officer - who handed her a £100 fine.
Susan Watson, 68, was confronted with an '18-inch long' littering ticket by the eagle-eyed official, who watched her as she fed some ducks by the riverside.
The dementia nurse, from Tonbridge, Kent, was walking along a public pathway which runs along the River Medway on Tuesday, January 31.
She thought nothing of breaking up a slice of bread for the waterfowl, but was then approached by the officer working for Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (TMBC) who handed her a £100 fine for littering.
It follows a similar incident of a 66-year-old man in Leicester who was wrongly fined £150 for feeding ducks in November.
Susan Watson, 68, was confronted with an '18-inch long' littering ticket by the eagle-eyed official, who watched her as she fed some ducks by the riverside (stock image)
Ms Watson said: 'I was so shocked. I remember someone started to run after me shouting "hello". He told me I was on camera and that I had committed an environmental infringement.
'There were no crumbs on the pathway and the bread went straight into the water.
'I asked if he could give me a warning but he refused.
'He went on to say that what I did could be seen as fly-tipping, which is a much bigger offence. It was one slice of bread.'
Ms Watson, who has lived in Tonbridge for nearly 20 years, takes the route along the River Medway into the town centre every day.
She added: 'I don't always feed the ducks but that one day I had a slice of crust left and thought it would be nice to. Lots of other people do it, including children.
'I suggested to the officer that they should put up some signs. He said that it's all on the council's website.
'I rang the council the same day and the women on the phone asked if I was joking! They also told me they would ring me back, but they never have.'
In October last year the council announced it was working with a private enforcement company to crack down on littering across the borough.
The council partnered up with National Enforcement Solutions (NES) - a specialist company which provides 'front-line enforcement' - in a project named 'No Ifs, No Buts'. It is understood the officer involved was working for NES.
The specialist teams have been patrolling towns and villages, keeping an eye out for people discarding rubbish on the street.
Those caught dropping litter, including cigarette stubs, could face a fixed penalty of up to £150 - or £100 if paid within ten days.
Ms Watson decided to pay the fine as she was concerned it would increase to the maximum penalty if she left it too long.
She said: 'For me to earn £100 is the equivalent of six hours on a night shift. I wouldn't have kicked off as much if it was £30, or if he gave me a warning.
'I'm so embarrassed, I've never paid a fine in my life before. I've had to take the money out of my pension fund to pay for it.'
'It's madness. Everyone I have told thinks I'm making it up.'
The council has since agreed to refund the fine. A spokesman said: 'We got this one wrong. The enforcement officer from NES considered that dropping what he felt was a large amount of bread into the river justified a penalty.
'However, before this was even brought to our attention, the company had reviewed the case and come to the decision that it was not warranted.
'The penalty has already been refunded and we'd like to apologise to Ms Watson for the error.'