IT WAS a doggie whodunnit to tax the best legal brains. Was Charlie the golden retriever guilty of making a mess on a verge in Hemingford Abbots? Or was it, as owner Carole Horner claimed, foul play ... a case of mistaken identity? At the end of a day-lon
IT WAS a doggie whodunnit to tax the best legal brains.
Was Charlie the golden retriever guilty of making a mess on a verge in Hemingford Abbots?
Or was it, as owner Carole Horner claimed, foul play ... a case of mistaken identity?
At the end of a day-long hearing in Huntingdon Magistrates' Court, involving six witnesses, photographs and conspiracy claims, Mrs Horner - and Charlie - were cleared.
The prosecution has cost Huntingdonshire District Council more than £2,000 and, when added to the estimated costs of running a court for the day plus costs for witnesses, the bill for the failed prosecution is expected to reach about £4,000.
The council had issued Mrs Horner, 53, of Common Lane, Hemingford Abbots, with a £50 penalty notice for allowing her dog to foul a verge at the side of a road in the village on July 12, 2006,
When she refused to pay, she was taken to court because her dog had "defecated on designated land .... and did fail to remove the faeces from that land forthwith. Section 3 of the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996."
Magistrates sat from 10am until 5.15pm last Wednesday hearing evidence relating to Charlie's toilet habits.
Mrs Horner said: "The whole thing was ludicrous. I thought it would all be over in a couple of hours as it was such a trivial matter.
"I wrote to the council explaining the situation after they issued me with a penalty notice, but they didn't follow up what I said and carried on to court.
"What a waste of taxpayers' money."
The council claimed Mrs Horner had allowed Charlie to foul a verge and provided photographs to prove it.
But Mrs Horner, known as Lindy, claimed the dog pictured was not Charlie and said she had been at the hairdresser at the time of the incident.
She had left the dog with a friend and claimed the allegation was a conspiracy against her by her neighbours, motivated by a planning dispute.
Mike Trippitt, prosecuting, said making claims about a dog fouling the verge would be a "bizarre" way to take revenge over a planning dispute.
However, Fred Sagoe, defending, suggested the case could be one of mistaken identity.
"There are other golden retrievers who live on that lane. Where is the link between the dog and the faeces? There is no hard evidence."
After a six-hour hearing and a 20-minute deliberation, magistrates ruled that Mrs Horner had not been in charge of the dog at the time of the incident and dismissed the case.
The district said it had decided to act after a neighbour of Mrs Horner complained about the actions of her dog.
The court heard how Christine Grove, of Common Lane, had complained about the dog fouling the verge.
And her brother, Ray Briscoe, said he had seen a dog, which he took to be Charlie, loose in the road on the morning of July 12. He followed the dog and took a picture of it fouling next to a lamp-post to provide evidence.
He told the court he was "150 per cent sure" the dog was Charlie.
However, Mrs Horner produced receipts to show she had been at the hairdresser and said Charlie had been left with her friend John Sink, who was doing some building work for her. Mr Sink said, as far as he was aware, Charlie had not left the house.
After the hearing, Mrs Grove said the prosecution had been useful. "All I wanted was for her [Mrs Horner's] dog to stop running loose in the lane and that has happened since the penalty notice," she said.
"I didn't want to be here this long - it is ridiculous. I fought a custody battle for my granddaughter and was home by 2pm."
Delivering his verdict, presiding magistrate Robin Hayden said: "It has been a very, very long day.
"It is all too frequently that we hear of neighbours disliking each other, and that is very sad. We hope that, irrespective of the verdict this evening, you will be able to live happily for years to come."
HDC public health manager John Allan told The Hunts Post the outcome of the case was disappointing.
He said: "We feel this judgement is giving out the wrong signals to members of the public, who generally support the council's drive to encourage responsible dog ownership."
INFORMATION: Anyone wishing to report dog fouling can call HDC on 01480 388266.