‘Self­ish’ dog owner sen­tenced

Kapi-Mana News - - COURT -

A for­mer lawyer’s ‘‘self­ish’’ pro­tec­tion of her dog af­ter it ripped a woman’s lip off has earned her a $15,000 fine, a hefty com­mu­nity work sen­tence, and could de­stroy her chances of work­ing over­seas.

Gretel Fair­brother, 43, was sen­tenced to 200 hours’ com­mu­nity work and fined $15,452 af­ter the attack on Linda Har­ri­son by Fair­brother’s dog, Stan­ley Boy, in 2013.

Har­ri­son lost most of her lower lip in the attack and, de­spite sur­gi­cal re­con­struc­tion, has been un­able to eat, drink or speak nor­mally since.

Her work and fam­ily life had de­te­ri­o­rated, she suf­fered from post- trau­matic stress dis­or­der, and she strug­gled to look at her changed ap­pear­ance in the mir­ror, Judge Tony Zohrab said in Welling­ton Dis­trict Court last week.

The judge chas­tised Fair­brother for hid­ing her dog for nearly 18 months af­ter the attack.

As a for­mer crim­i­nal bar­ris­ter, Fair­brother should have ex­er­cised bet­ter judg­ment than to lie to lawyers and the coun­cil about her dog’s where­abouts, he said.

‘‘You did ev­ery­thing to hin­der the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and re­fused to hand over the dog. It was tan­ta­mount to com­pletely ig­nor­ing the law­ful author­ity of the dog con­trol of­fi­cers,’’ he said.

‘‘You’re a per­son of char­ac­ter with no pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions. But re­gret­tably you’ve self­ishly fo­cused on your own in­ter­ests and the in­ter­ests of the dog with­out con­sid­er­ing the in­ter­ests of oth­ers.’’

The attack hap­pened in Cam­borne on Fe­bru­ary 22, 2013.

Fair­brother was walk­ing her two dogs and stopped to chat with Har­ri­son when Stan­ley Boy lunged at Har­ri­son’s face with­out warn­ing and swal­lowed her sev­ered lip.

Stan­ley Boy was spot­ted and seized af­ter 18 months in hid­ing. Fair­brother had him put down last De­cem­ber af­ter she was found guilty of own­ing a dog that at­tacked and se­ri­ously in­jured a per­son, fail­ing to keep a dog un­der con­trol, and wil­fully ob­struct­ing a dog con­trol of­fi­cer.

Zohrab said she ap­peared to lack re­morse over the attack, but her lawyer, Mike An­tunovic, dis­agreed.

Stan­ley Boy was like a child to her, he said.

‘‘ Ms Fair­brother bears deep re­morse, in equal terms per­haps for what hap­pened to Mrs Har­ri­son and what hap­pened to her dog. Clearly her heart eclipsed ev­ery­thing else.’’

A con­vic­tion could pre­vent Fair­brother from ob­tain­ing a work visa to join her part­ner in the United Arab Emi­rates, An­tunovic said. The judge was un­con­vinced by that ar­gu­ment.

Porirua City Coun­cil, which brought the case, will re­cover about $4300 from Fair­brother’s fine, with $9600 go­ing to Har­ri­son and the rest to the court.

Har­ri­son said af­ter the sen­tenc­ing the repa­ra­tion was mean­ing­less.

‘‘It’s noth­ing. How do you com­pen­sate for not be­ing able to bite a corn cob or an ap­ple, or drink a cup of tea? I miss be­ing able to whis­tle the most.’’

She lost in­come af­ter strug­gling to re­turn to work as a ve­teri­nary as­sis­tant treat­ing dogs, she said. ‘‘ The whole process has been hor­ren­dously emo­tional.’’

Fair­brother re­fused to com­ment af­ter the sen­tenc­ing.

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