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Dino – the road to salvation

Photo by Dr Daan Vink
Media interest in the case was intense. The press outside the court

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 three 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.

Photo by Dr Daan Vink
The three expert witnesses,
l to r, Trevor Turner, Mike Mullan and Dr Roger Mugford