Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Magistrates make bizarre trip to beach in dog fouling case

Magistrates were taken to a rain-lashed Teesside beach to visit the scene of an alleged crime - a dog fouling. Respectable pensioner Bob Hewling went on trial on his Shih Tzu’s 10th birthday - only to be cleared by a court of any wrongdoing in just 10 minutes. The prosecution was branded “ridiculous” and “a waste of public money” by Mr Hewling’s family. The 71-year-old, who had never troubled the courts before in his life, had been accused of allowing his dog to defecate on Redcar beach. In an unusual move, magistrates visited the soggy beach on a wet Friday nine months after the alleged dog fouling. The site visit had been requested by the prosecuting authority, Redcar and Cleveland Council. The three magistrates were joined by Mr Hewling, the prosecutor, defence lawyer, court clerk and community protection officer - and the dog in question, Monty.

Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard how Monty was allegedly seen “doing his business” on Redcar beach last September. Community protection officer James Sexton told the court he was “100% sure” he had seen the dog fouling the beach. Giving evidence, he told the magistrates: “I witnessed the faeces leaving the dog.” But Mr Hewling was equally adamant that his beloved pet had not made a mess. The pensioner, who was in an emotional and distressed state throughout the court hearing, insisted there was no poop to scoop on that occasion. He maintained Monty had squatted as if to do his business and he had gone over with a bag. He told the court: “I had my bag in my hand ready to pick it up. There was nothing there at all, I am sure.”

The former British Steel and ICI worker said he took a dim view of dog fouling, adding: “I don’t like it at all.” He said he always cleaned up after his dog and even after other people’s dogs. The court heard that Mr Hewling was given the opportunity to pay a fixed penalty notice but declined. He told the magistrates it was “a matter of principle”. “If I thought Monty had done it I would have paid the fine a long time ago,” he said. Mr Hewling, of High Street, Eston, is of good character and has no previous convictions. His solicitor Gary Wood said the pensioner had never been in a courtroom before - apart from jury service and receiving a bravery award for rescuing a man from a river.

The only time Mr Hewling had been in a police station was to hand in some lost money and World Cup tickets, said Mr Wood. Taking just 10 minutes to find him not guilty, chair of the bench Pamela Ross said they believed the officer had “made an honest mistake”. After the case Mr Hewling said: “I feel relieved it is all over and done with. It was very tempting to pay the fine but it is the principle. I knew the dog hadn’t done anything.” Wife Ann, 68, said: “It has been really stressful for both of us. “I haven’t been sleeping properly for the last few months, neither has my husband. I think it is ridiculous, it is not right. It was a waste of public money. It shouldn’t have gone as far as it did.” Mr Wood said: “I would expect it would cost in excess of £1,000. It has taken a full day’s worth of magistrates’ time. It has proved costly.” A Redcar and Cleveland Council spokesman declined to comment on the cost of the case.

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