THE Princess Royal is to be the first member of the Royal Family to face a criminal charge after being ordered to appear in court over allegations that one of her bull terriers attacked two children.
The Princess, who was on the court list under her married name, Anne Elizabeth Alice Laurence, and her husband, Timothy Laurence, were summoned to appear before East Berkshire magistrates in Slough on November 21, on charges under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.
It is alleged that their dog attacked two boys aged 7 and 12 while they were cycling in Windsor Park in April, two days after the death of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
However, it is understood that the boys families are royalists and were reluctant to see the Princess and her husband charged.
Being in charge of a dog that is dangerously out of control in a public place carries a maximum fine of £5,000 and up to six months in prison.
At the end of last weeks hearing, District Judge Terence English said that both defendants would need to be present at the next hearing, to answer the allegations. "They are not proceedings that can take place in their absence," he said. Hugo Keith, the Princesss lawyer, said that she was absent from yesterdays hearing as she was on a charity visit to Ethiopia.
of the defendants is unable to be here because she is engaged
on official business abroad," he said. "Its
quite normal for the first day of a summons to be adjourned
in the absence of a defendant. There are good reasons for
this today." The hearing, which Buckingham Palace confirmed
will be attended by the Princess, 52, and her husband, 47,
will make royal and legal history.
One of the princesss three Bull Terriers, a 13-year-old bitch called Eglantyne is thought to be the likeliest to have committed the alleged attack. The dog has been involved in two previous biting incidents over the years.
The leg wound suffered by one of the victims was said not to have been serious, though dog bites that break the skin are highly infectious, second only to those of human beings, because of the bacteria in canine mouths.
The children who were bitten live near Windsor, but cannot be named for legal reasons.
However, a family friend said that the Princess was deeply concerned over the incident and immediately took charge, driving the boys to hospital in her own car.
"She was entirely human in her concern for the children," He said. "The Princess took the children to her car and then drove them to the hospital. What she did, I dont think any ordinary person would have done. She was very nice."
The friend added that the family had no axe to grind and had not wanted the Princess charged and taken to court. "I dont think the family wanted Princess Anne to be taken to court, but the police probably want to make it an issue to prove that nobody is above the law. It is not personal."
senior member of the Royal Family has been prosecuted for
anything more serious than a motoring offence, since Charles
I was executed for treason in 1649. The last time a senior
member of the Royal Family appeared in court is believed to
have been during the Baccarat Scandal of 1890, when a slander
action was brought by a card player accused of cheating.
The Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, gave evidence about the game, at which he had been a player. The Prince also appeared as a witness in a divorce case in which he was alleged to be the third party.