By Polly King, OUR DOGS Reporter
A FAMILY'S devotion to Dino, their GSD resulted in legal history being made last Friday. Dino's case was the longest running Section 3 DDA case to date, and the first to be referred back to the courts by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. The case was described by presiding judge Mr Patrick Eccles QC as being unique, although he made it clear that it did not set a precedent for other DDA cases.
Seven and a half year-old Dino, belonging to Bryan and Carol Lamont, was under sentence of death from a destruction order made by Northampton magistrates under Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act in July 2001, following an altercation with a Jack Russell Terrier, whose owner was bitten - allegedly by Dino - in the resulting melee. Dino should have been destroyed in twenty-one days of the order, however no warrant was made to arrest the dog and enforce the ruling.
Appeals Fail Following the magistrates' court case where the destruction order was made, the Lamonts engaged the services of solicitor Trevor Cooper and an appeal was launched. The appeal failed but determined not to give up, Mr Lamont took the case to the High Court, then to the House of Lords, all of who rejected any appeal. Determined to fight on, the Lamonts finally appealed to the European Court of Human rights, only to hear that the case could not be heard. In the meantime Dino was still living at the Lamonts home in Northampton.
Trevor Cooper commented, "Having the appeal turned down by the European Court, I went back to the books, and discovered that Dino's case might be suitable for a review by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. This organisation was set up in 1995 and has so far reviewed cases from the sixties and earlier, where the accused is no longer living and the appeal has been held posthumously. Not only was Dino's case uniquely made on behalf of a dog, but also, it was the first case of a retrial, being held for an accused that was still alive". Since 1997 the Commission has heard 6,292 cases and allowed re-trials for 194 cases, which is just 3% of the total reviewed.
In Court On Friday, October 15th 2004, an anxious Bryan Lamont sat in Northampton Crown Court alongside Trevor Cooper, behind them the three expert witnesses, Trevor Turner, former Chief Veterinary Surgeon for Crufts, Championship Show Judge and behaviourist Mike Mullan, and Canine Behaviourist Roger Mugford, who had each handed in reports to the court testifying to their belief that Dino posed no real threat to the public. Barrister Shiraz Ruston then rose to present the defence case.
A video was played in court showing that Mr Lamont had undertaken to secure his property as the experts had advised. This included two metre high fencing with a wire extension on the top of that, and padlocks on the access gate. As the video played, those present in the court had the opportunity to view Dino with Bessie, a small dog belonging to Dr Roger Mugford, walking along a footpath and passing other pedestrians including a woman accompanied by a Cavalier spaniel and small child. Dino paid no real interest in those he met, just calmly walking by. The video ended with Dr Mugford's dog and Dino both off the lead, in the Lamonts' garden; again Dino paid no attention to Bessie.
Mr Lamont was called to the stand to answer questions and confirm he had properly undertaken securing his property, including placing a box to catch post on the front door, so that Dino had no access to the postman's fingers. Dr Mugford was also called to answer questions put by the magistrates, about Dino's character and state of health, and confirm that the measures taken to secure the house and garden were sufficient. After this and closing submissions, Judge Eccles and the two magistrates sitting with him retired to consider the evidence.
Every Dog Has His Day On their return Mr Eccles QC said that due to the considerable interest the case had attracted he would like to read out a statement before pronouncing the decision on Dino's future. In the statement he referred to Mr Lamont's efforts on behalf of his dog, saying, " 'Every dog will have his day' the bard said - and Mr Lamont's devotion to his certainly allowed Dino his day in court. If a Scotsman with deep pockets and spirit takes on the judiciary to vindicate his dog, the contest is likely to be vigorous and prolonged. Dino had spent half his life on canine death row, happily without consciousness of the awful fate that might await him". As soon as Mr Patrick Eccles announced the destruction order had been lifted a happy Mr Lamont looked across the court room, smiled and winked at his daughter Carly, sitting in the public gallery.
The proceedings then turned to the restrictions to be placed on Dino and the undertakings that would need to be met by the Lamonts, to prevent another incident happening in the future. Here the experts were able to advise the magistrates via Trevor Cooper and Shiraz Ruston, on matters pertaining to the safety of the public and the welfare of Dino.
After some discussion a proposal for a new Control Order on Dino was put forward which the magistrates accepted and the Lamonts agreed to undertake. The magistrates made provision on the Control Order, for a variation of the order, as Dino ages or the Lamonts need to move house. Speaking afterwards Trevor Turner said that although the restrictions placed on Dino were there for the public safety, he had been concerned that the restrictions should have consideration for the welfare of Dino, especially as he ages. Mike Mullen agreed with these sentiments adding that it was an excellent result.
Media Scrum There was extensive media coverage of the event, with many TV companies, radio stations and almost all the national daily papers covering the case. Bryan Lamont told OUR DOGS that he was surprised by the amount of interest the case generated. "The amount of coverage totally blew me away," he said. He first became aware of the media interest when, on arrival, he was asked to walk into the building twice for the cameras stationed outside. On leaving court he and daughter Carly were faced with a wall of cameras, journalists and photographers.
A figure of £60,000 costs has been mentioned in many newspaper articles about the case, but Mr Lamont assured OUR DOGS that this figure is exaggerated. Without the help and support of The Dogs Trust, who raised money to help fund the challenges through the courts, initial help from the Fury Defence Fund and donations from the Scottish public and dog lovers across the UK it would not have been possible and he would like to thank everyone for the support the family have received. Praising the hard work put in by Mr Trevor Cooper and Mike Mullan, Mr Lamont said, "Trevor Cooper has been an absolute stalwart over the years, he and Mike Mullan have been a great support, and have worked very hard for Dino".
Carol Lamont did not attend the court; she stayed at home with Dino waiting for the phone call with the decision. Carol said she didn't like courts and just couldn't face being there on Friday, but she really appreciated the help of the experts who helped save Dino. Mr Lamont added that he thought, before the case started, that they only had a 50% chance of having the destruction order lifted, but as soon as the video made by Trevor Turner, Roger Mugford and Mike Mullan was played in court he thought Dino might be reprieved, and, happily, after three and a half long years, this proved to be the case.
Dino is now free to go about his life without the unwarranted sentence of death hanging over him.
© Polly King/OUR DOGS 2004
By Jean Turner, VN
LEGAL HISTORY was made on Friday 15th October 2004 when Mr Bryan Lamont was successful in his appeal to Northampton Crown Court against the destruction order on the family's German Shepherd Dog, Dino, originally imposed on 24th July 2001 at Northampton Magistrates' Court.
The path to the case was a long and tortuous one: On 9th January 2001 Mr Lamont was exercising Dino in East Hunsbury Country Park near Northampton. Dino wandered off and encountered Mrs Elizabeth Coull who was walking her Jack Russell terrier 'Ralph', on the lead, in the company of her two godchildren. Teeth, if not words, were clearly exchanged by the two dogs. When Mrs Coull attempted to separate them she was severely bitten. When the case came before Northampton Magistrates' Court, on the advice of his solicitor, Mr Lamont pleaded guilty to 'allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place so causing injury under Section 3 (1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991'.
He was ordered to pay £100 fine, plus compensation of £2552 to be paid to Mrs Coull. In addition - and unexpectedly - magistrates imposed a destruction order was made in respect of Dino.
After consultation with Mr Trevor Cooper of Cooper & Co. solicitors an Appeal was made to Northampton Crown Court that was dismissed on 14th September 2001. Mr Lamont then applied to the Administrative Court for permission to apply for a judicial review of the decision of the Crown Court. This was refused on 8th October 2001. A renewed application was made in November 2001 by Mr Trevor Cooper on behalf of Mr Lamont and this was also refused.
In January 2002 Mr Lamont submitted a petition for leave to Appeal to the House of Lords and this was refused in April 2002. The matter was taken to the European Court of Human Rights in October 2002 and it took until April 2004 before the European Court reached a decision and refused that application.
On 22nd April 2004 through Trevor Cooper Mr Lamont applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) for a review of the destruction order in respect of Dino.
Expert evidence in respect of the original appeal to Northampton Crown Court had been supplied by the well-known behaviourist and kennel owner, Mr Mike Mullan. As further evidence of Dino's behaviour and care Mr Cooper relied on expert reports from animal behaviourist Dr Roger Mugford and my husband, former Crufts Chief Vet, Trevor Turner.
I accompanied Trevor on the trip to assess Dino and we were both, together with Roger Mugford, unanimous in our praise for Dino's temperament. Both experts' reports commented on the extents to which the Lamonts had gone to ensure that no similar incidents could possible occur. They were, to all of us, clearly very caring owners. The garden was very securely fenced and recommendations regarding further security made by Trevor and Roger were immediately implemented. After consideration of this evidence it was the decision of the CCRC that the case should be referred back to the Crown Court. This was approved - the first DDA case - and therefore concerning a dog - to be approved in this way and a date for the appeal was set.
The Appeal was heard by His Honour Judge Patrick Eccles sitting with two magistrates. The Judge emphasised how impressed he was at the efforts made over the years to ensure Dino was never in a position to repeat the incident. A video was shown of the dog meeting Roger Trevor earlier this year when we carried out our visit prior to submitting the independent expert reports. At the time Dino was introduced to another dog and walked on public footpaths where he encountered other dogs and people. His behaviour was impeccable throughout. Judge Eccles and his two magistrate colleagues considered the evidence, reports and video.
The Court considered fresh evidence since September 2001. In the reports of the experts the Judge was made aware of the control and care of Dino by the Lamonts. He was now always muzzled and on a Halti harness and lead when in a public place. Home and garden security was taken into consideration.
Unusually, no warrant had been issued for Dino's seizure and immediate implementation of the destruction order made in July 2001. The Judge could give no reason for this. Dino has been allowed to remain under the owners' control for over 3 years but had effectively been on 'death row'.
The Judge stated the case had raised considerable public interest. It should not be taken as any form of precedent since the circumstances were unique, nevertheless- Dino is reprieved, the Appeal is allowed.
Obviously a Control Order was imposed. This involved discussion between the Bench and the experts. Dino must at all times be kept safely and under appropriate control. He should wear a 'Baskerville' muzzle and Halti harness at all times when outside the house and garden. Escape should not be possible from house or garden at any time. Should Mr and Mrs Lamont go away for more than 24 hours, Dino should be boarded in a local authority licensed boarding kennels.
This control order is clearly restrictive in its requirements but the Judge explained that application could be made to the Magistrates' Court to consider alteration in certain circumstances. If the restrictions were not met and Dino did re-offend there is a contingency destruction order in place. Nevertheless we all left Court very relieved that at least the hard work and tenacity of so many, not only the owners and their legal advisers but all the other groups and individuals who have subscribed to the cause with both cash and time over the years have achieved the goal that Dino should not die.
© Jean Turner/OUR DOGS 2004
A Personal Comment by Nick Mays, Chief Reporter
DINO IS SAVED! Three small, but wonderful words that were texted to me at around 1:15pm on Friday, October 15th 2004.
Dino's reprieve marked yet another significant victory of commonsense and determination over one of the most ill-conceived and downright unjust pieces of legislation to ever be enacted in the UK -the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Certainly the reprieve of Dino will rank alongside the release of Dempsey, the Pit Bull Terrier who was condemned to death for having her muzzle removed in public to allow her to vomit without choking. It will be recalled that two policemen - one of whom just happened to be an Inspector - had followed the young man walking Dempsey on behalf of her owner, Dianne Fanneran and swooped when her muzzle was removed. This, however, was 12 years ago in 1992, in the early, vicious days of the Dangerous Dogs Act, when any misdemeanour under the Act made a dog 'fair game' - Dempsey represented a good 'scalp' - a Pit Bull, albeit registered, identified, but still illegal, because she was un-muzzled in public!
Both cases have interesting parallels. Both dogs were well behaved; one could even say model citizens. Both were 'guilty' of minor offences - in Dino's case he may or may not have accidentally bitten the hand of the owner of a dog who started a fight with him. Both were charged under the DDA - Dempsey under Section 1 and Dino under Section 3. Both were under sentence of death for 3 and a half long years, both dogs' owners fought long and hard through the courts to secure an appeal, both owners were cruelly rebuffed by legal pettifogging and the judicial old boy's network hell-bent on upholding the original, spurious verdict, both were fortunate to be represented by the excellent solicitor Trevor Cooper, a specialist in dog law. Both were ultimately reprieved in a blaze of publicity, earning them the front page of many national newspapers.
The subtle difference between the two, however, is that whereas poor Dempsey was held in solitary confinement at secret kennels during those long years, Dino was allowed to live at home with his family. Whether this was an act of benevolence on the part of Northamptonshire Police or simply an administrative oversight is unclear - certainly the avuncular Judge Patrick Eccles QC who reprieved Dino could offer no explanation for why a warrant on the dog's destruction was not issued or sought. In Dempsey's case, 'The Establishment' was out to kill her from Day One and it took all of Trevor Cooper's legal expertise and the gutsy determination of her owner, Diane to keep her alive.
It was the same legal expertise and the same gutsy determination - not to mention a lot of money - were brought to bear in Dino's case by his owners Bryan and Carol Lamont, proving that the 'little people' can still triumph against the weight of the law and 'The Establishment'… and finally have their case heard by a judge with the commonsense to realise that before him were good owners and, crucially, a good dog.
Let's not forget to give thanks to the Criminal Cases Review Commission for considering Dino's case and referring it back to the Crown Court - it literally was Dino's last chance. But equally, let's not forget that charges should never have been brought under the DDA to start with. If charges needed to be brought at all, minor canine offences should be brought under the perfectly adequate 1871 Dogs Act - but there the Crown Prosecution Service is at fault. In Dempsey's case, a quiet word of warning with her owner or the family friend walking Dempsey by the obviously under-worked Police Inspector would have sufficed. In both cases, no destruction order would have been issued and there would have been no need for all the stress and heartache.
Finally, it's good to see the wider, national media reporting positively that a dog has been reprieved under the vile DDA. They did so previously with Dempsey in 1995 and again with Dino in 2004. But again, let's not forget who clamoured for the introduction off the DDA in the first place. If Dino's case had been heard ten years ago, the papers might just as well have called for the "vicious brute's instant destruction!" But then again, news is a funny old game and the national Media has a selective memory.
But whatever the rights and wrongs, whatever the past has wrought, let's be happy here in the present and wish Dino a long and happy future. Thanks to his owners and all those good folk on his side, he now has a future to enjoy.
And that, for sure, is Good News!
© Nick Mays/OUR DOGS 2004