Dog trial costs awarded
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.