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Dino’s European last-ditch appeal
‘being considered’


Dino, the dog on ‘death row,’ pictured here with owner Carly Lamont,
who is hoping for a happy outcome

THE OWNERS of a dog sentenced to death under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act for accidentally biting the owner of another dog have spoken out to express their feelings at the rejection of a legal appeal to the House of Lords to save their dog’s life.

The appeal was lodged just after Christmas by well-known solicitor Trevor Cooper, who has been handling the case of five-year-old GSD, Dino, since his initial appeal against destruction.

Dino was sentenced to death by Northampton Magistrates early last year after his owner - Carol Lamont - pleaded guilty to a minor biting incident under Section 3 of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. This arose from an incident when Dino got into a fight with another dog whilst out walking in January of that year, and the other dog’s owner was nipped in the ensuing fracas.

The decision to prosecute under the DDA was taken by the Crown Prosecution Service, although several Home Office circulars have issued guidelines to state that minor incidents of this nature should be prosecuted under the less draconian 1871 Dogs Act.

Through the Fury Defence Fund, Mrs Lamont engaged well-known DDA expert solicitor Trevor Cooper to act on her behalf. Mr Cooper lodged an appeal and challenged the destruction order at Northampton Crown Court in September 2001, but the judge upheld the magistrates’ decision, saying that Dino had attacked the other dog without any provocation and continued to pose a danger to public safety.

Following two High Court appeals, Dino’s case was then referred to the House of Lords Judicial Office just after Christmas to see whether permission would be granted for an appeal to the House of Lords itself.

Agonising

After the long and agonising delay, the Lords Judicial Committee told Mr Cooper a week last Tuesday that the Lamonts’ request for leave to appeal had been refused. No reasons were given, nor, according to the law governing such appeals, do reasons need to be given to appellants.

“There is no way for us now, at least not in England and Wales, as the judicial process is now exhausted” Mr Cooper said. “We have done everything we can as far as the English courts are concerned. Our only possible hope is the European Court which will have to look at it as a matter of extreme urgency.”

If an application is made to the European court this will not necessarily prevent Dino’s destruction, even temporarily. Mr Cooper contacted the Crown Prosecution Service to ask whether they could ‘hold fire’ while decisions as to the next move were considered.

“Technically, police officers could call at the Lamonts’ home and remove Dino for destruction,” said Mr Cooper. “To be fair, I don’t think they want to do this, but the ultimate decision rests with the CPS.”

The legal battle to save Dino’s life has taken 15 months and has cost Lamonts over £20,000. However, the couple have always said they will never give up on their dog.

However, speaking exclusively to OUR DOGS, Carol Lamont indicated her growing feeling of despair that she was fighting a lost cause.

“Much as we love Dino, we can’t go on paying out thousands of pounds if the appeal doesn’t stand a good chance of being successful,” says Carol, “And if Dino can be legally destroyed in the meantime, that makes a mockery and nonsense of the whole legal process.

“We didn’t expect the Lords to turn our appeal down when they gave us permission to appeal. When I received the news from Trevor Cooper, I wasn’t even surprised, I have to say, because we don’t expect good news any longer.”

Carol is quite bitter about the whole judicial process and feels that they were poorly advised from the very beginning by their original solicitor.

“We were badly informed. Our solicitor said that as the bitten woman’s defence team had medical evidence that her hand had been bitten - even though there was no proof that Dino had bitten her as she tried to separate the dogs - we had no option but to plead guilty. He - and we - expected a fine and a control order on Dino, especially as it was his first offence.
But I think the magistrates had already made up their minds to make an example of us.

Threat

“And when we pleaded guilty none of our evidence was put forward, so we had no case in effect. So here we are, 15 months later, and Dino is still under threat of destruction. But this supposedly ‘dangerous dog’ has been left with us and he hasn’t bitten anyone else.

“The fact is, when you weigh up our case against all the other crimes which make the news - poor little Damilola Taylor for instance - and the crimes which aren’t consider worthy enough to be prosecuted, just what are the CPS thinking of in pursuing this case all the way at huge expense? Brian and I are hard working, ‘middle class’ people, we’ve never been in trouble with the law, and yet the law comes down on us like a ton of bricks for what was essentially an accident. The woman who was bitten was awarded £2,500 compensation - and she never said she’d involve the police in the first place! It’s no wonder people have no respect for the law nowadays.”