Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

State Attack Dogs

State Attack Dogs

Yesterday morning at approximately 9 O' Clock, I was going about my law abiding business of walking my dog Rocky along Pearson Park Avenue, in the direction of Pearson Park, coming from Beverley Road (A1079), when a police car drove past me heading towards Beverley Road. I thought I detected the occupants paying me undue attention as the police car went past. Just because I'm paranoid it doesn't mean that they aren't out to get me. Sure enough I caught a glimpse of the police car as it flashed past me on the wrong side of the road, and pulled up to a stop at the kerb just ahead of me.

From the front passenger side emerged whom I now know to be PC 1601 Cherry. As he came up close to me he said: "John. I want to have a word with you". I replied: "What about?". He said: "It's about Rocky. We want you to come into the police station at Pearson Park. We're going to arrest you under the Dangerous Dogs Act, and Section 5 of the Public Order Act. But, take Rocky for his walk first and be there at 10.30 or we'll have to come and arrest you". I replied: "As far as I'm concerned, it police harassment. It hardly gives me time enough for breakfast and to take Rocky for his walk". He said: "It's time enough", and walked back to the police car.

The last time they sent 6 coppers and were very heavy-handed. My hands cuffed behind me and Rocky dragged out of the house with one of those chokers on a pole, he must have been scared stiff poor dog. I heard him yelping for 5 hours before I was released on police bail.

At least this time it was more civilised. I was only cuffed in front, but still I thought it amounted to a false arrest and false imprisonment, and assault. This time I was in there for 7 hours. They said that the delay was down to me asserting my right to have a solicitor present. In my view, they could have phoned and informed me and I could have arrived with my solicitor.

I was surprised when the charge sheet read:

"Dog not under proper control - complaint only
Between 16/10/2008 and 18/01/2009 at the City of Kingston upon Hull being the owner of a dog which was dangerous and not kept under proper control, complaint is laid by Humberside Police who applies for an order that the dog is to be kept under proper control or destroyed.

A Google search provided the answer why they had decided to use the old Act instead of the more modern Act. "The strength of the 1871 Act is that as it is not part of the criminal law, it operates on a lower standard of proof and proceedings can be taken even when a criminal offence has not been committed. It provides a remedy in a wide range of circumstances for the destruction, or imposition of controls, on dangerous dogs. A particular advantage of the 1871 Act is the fact that it applies everywhere, even in and around a private house which is why it is particularly appropriate for action on behalf of people such as postmen and women who are regularly at risk from dogs in front gardens". And the second part here is very worrying given how vague and catch-all the wording appears to be:

"Any dog is dangerously out of control if:
• it injures a person, or
• it behaves in a way that makes
a person worried that it might
injure them

I see this as State encroachment of dog lovers liberties. Are we no longer a nation of dog lovers?

John Hirst and "Rocky" found not guilty

John Hirst and "Rocky" found not guilty

By Mark George


John Hirst who was released in 2004 after serving 25 years in prison for manslaughter and who spent much of the latter part of his sentence litigating with some success against the government and prison service has won his latest encounter with the authorities.

It seems that a number of park keepers at a local park where Mr Hirst enjoyed exercising his dog had found out about his past and resented his using the park. After an altercation earlier this year in which it was alleged that his dog Rocky had bitten a park keeper Mr Hirst was arrested and charged under the Dangerous Dogs Act s.3 with having a dog "dangerously out of control and causing injury", an offence which could have resulted in a death sentence for Rocky and a further charge of common assault to cover an allegation that the dog had bitten the park keeper in response to direct command to "kill him" from Mr Hirst. It should be pointed out that Rocky is a cross breed Labrador/Retriever and more likely to lick you to death than do any other lasting damage!

The prosecution had originally lined up all their heavy artillery including a bad character application relating to previous alleged incidents of bad behaviour by Rocky, with supporting evidence at least twice as lengthy as the evidence to be used to support the present charges, and an application for an ASBO in the event of conviction. The bad character application was resisted on the basis, inter alia, that the bad character of the dog was not admissible even under the wide ranging terms of section 101 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and even before the trial as due to begin the prosecution had evidently thought better of that part of the case.

The allegation of common assault was then found to be untenable as well when the prosecution's dog behaviour expert agreed with the defence expert that a dog like Rocky wouldn't have the faintest idea what the command to "kill" meant! When the judge then weighed in with the view that the time of the Crown Court might be better spent on other cases the prosecution were left to enquire whether Mr Hirst would consider accepting a bind-over which he agreed to on the basis that not guilty verdicts were entered on both counts of the indictment.

The case is a good example of why it is not a good idea to overcharge (a minor public order charge would have been more appropriate) and then to seek to blow the case out of all proportion especially against such an experienced litigator as Mr Hirst.

Mr Hirst was represented by Mark George instructed by Frances Taylor of Harrison Bundey Solicitors in Leeds.

12/09/2008 - Man's dog "did not attack park warden" (Hull Daily Mail)