Dog trial costs awarded

Hills Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Sarah Brookes

THE Shire of Mun­dar­ing has been or­dered to pay more than $30,000 in le­gal costs to the owner of two dogs who were ac­quit­ted of killing and maim­ing 39 sheep in The Lakes in 2016.

A three-day crim­i­nal trial in the Perth Mag­is­trates Court on Jan­uary 30 be­tween the Shire and Si­mon Hey ruled the prose­cu­tion was un­able to prove be­yond a rea­son­able doubt that the dogs, Two Sox and Floyd, had com­mit­ted the of­fence.

Hand­ing down his de­ci­sion, Mag­is­trate Thomas Hall said he had se­ri­ous con­cerns about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­ducted by the Shire rangers, la­belling their ev­i­dence “poor” and “un­re­li­able”.

At Tues­day’s coun­cil meet­ing, Shire Pres­i­dent John Daw said im­prove­ments needed to be made when in­ves­ti­gat­ing dog at­tacks.

“On be­half of coun­cil­lors, I would like to take this op­por­tu­nity to ac­knowl­edge every­one in­volved in the re­cent court case in­volv­ing the al­leged at­tack on a num­ber of sheep in Fe­bru­ary 2016,” he said.

“This pub­li­cised event and sub­se­quent court case has been distress­ing for all par­ties, in­clud­ing the owner of the 39 sheep which were killed, Mr and Mrs Hey, the own­ers of the dogs, and the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cers who as part of their job as rangers at­tended the in­ci­dent.

“While the Heys were found not guilty of charges re­lat­ing to breach­ing the Dog Act 1976, there are re­ally no win­ners in this set of cir­cum­stances.

“What was not un­der dis­pute is the fact that 39 sheep were ei­ther in­jured or killed as a re­sult of an at­tack. Two dogs, whom the Shire al­leged were in­volved in the at­tack, were con­se­quently im­pounded for 15 months, pend­ing the out­come of a court de­ci­sion.

“I ac­knowl­edge there are a num­ber of im­prove­ments to be made to the Shire’s prac­tices and pro­ce­dures.

“The coun­cil and the com­mu­nity are as­sured that these im­prove­ment mea­sures, as with all Shire ser­vices, have been ad­dressed.”

How­ever, Hazel Wheat­ley-Hey was dis­ap­pointed with Cr Daw’s state­ment and said the case had left the cou­ple $41,000 out of pocket in le­gal fees.

“It ap­pears the Shire are still not ac­knowl­edg­ing their wrong­do­ing go­ing ahead with the prose­cu­tion,” she said.

“Floyd, the younger dog, spent half his life in the pound as he was only 11 months old at the time. This has af­fected him greatly and he now suf­fers ter­ri­ble anx­i­ety when not in hu­man com­pany.

“Two Sox is OK but can never get back that 15 months of his life that he was im­pounded.”

The Shire said while it did not have the fi­nal in­voices for the un­suc­cess­ful prose­cu­tion, costs so far were more than $80,000.

Lawyer Bruce Hav­i­lah said the prose­cu­tion had been plagued by sig­nif­i­cant in­ves­tiga­tive prob­lems for al­most two years.

“My client, like any nor­mal per­son ac­cused of a crim­i­nal of­fence, has car­ried the bur­den of this mat­ter which was un­re­solved for sig­nif­i­cantly longer than any other per­son nor­mally would who was charged with an of­fence un­der the Dog Act and who chose to ex­er­cise their law­ful right to de­fend them­selves,” he said.

“Fur­ther, the two dogs seized were fam­ily pets who slept in­side the house and were a part of the fam­ily.

“See­ing their pets con­fined to the pound was an ad­di­tional con­cern that the fam­ily tried to re­solve in May 2016 by of­fer­ing to trans­fer the dogs to a better en­vi­ron­ment at a ken­nel – which re­quest was re­fused by the Shire.”

Mr Hav­i­lah said he ques­tioned the de­ci­sion by the Shire to con­tinue le­gal ac­tion against the dogs.

“As a lo­cal shire with pros­e­cut­ing pow­ers, spend­ing their ratepay­ers’ money on this mat­ter – par­tic­u­larly a mat­ter which was show­ing ‘ev­i­den­tiary prob­lems’ – I sim­ply ques­tion the de­ci­sion to con­tinue to an­other three-day hear­ing,” he said.

He said “sound and con­sid­ered judg­ments and pru­dent de­ci­sion mak­ing” were needed for good gov­er­nance.

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