...in biting incident; fined 1,240
Thursday, November 21, 2002
LONDON (AP) - Princess Anne pleaded guilty Thursday to allowing her English bull terrier to run loose and attack two children, becoming the first member of the Royal Family in modern times to be convicted of a criminal offence.
Anne, the only daughter of the Queen, was fined the equivalent of $1,240 Cdn and ordered to pay $620 Cdn in compensation for violating the Dangerous Dogs Act. But a judge spared the life of the dog, named Dotty, ordering her to undergo training and to be put on a leash in public places.
The children's family described the decision as "neither moral nor just."
"We do not think justice has been done," they said in a statement. "The dog is still free and is a danger to society."
District Judge Penelope Hewitt warned that the dog would have to be destroyed if it misbehaved again.
"I consider that the owners are extremely responsible and if an order is made I have no doubt they will adhere to it," Hewitt said.
"It nevertheless is a big responsibility and they have to be aware that if anything goes wrong, if there is another repeat of what happened on Easter Monday then that is the end of it."
Prosecutors described in court how a dog belonging to the princess and her husband, Commodore Tim Laurence, bit two children aged seven and 12 who were cycling in Windsor Great Park near Windsor Castle on April 1. The children cannot be identified for legal reasons.
Anne pleaded guilty to the offence during a hearing at East Berkshire Magistrates Court in Slough, 30 kilometres west of London. Prosecutors dropped the charge against her husband.
The princess, who wore a red pleated skirt, white blouse and blue blazer, stood while the judge passed sentence.
The offence carried a maximum penalty of a $12,500 Cdn fine and six months' imprisonment.
The 52-year-old princess - who appeared on court lists as Anne Elizabeth Alice Laurence - arrived at court in a black Range Rover. Princess Anne, her 47-year-old husband and her children, Zara and Peter, were ushered past massed photographers and through the entrance by security guards.
In court, prosecutor Anthony Smith said the dog had chased and jumped at the children as they were cycling in the park with another child and the father of one of the boys.
The 12-year-old suffered a bite on the collarbone and two bites to his left leg, while the seven-year-old had scratches on his right forearm, back and left leg.
Smith said Princess Anne had apologized for her dog's behaviour and had driven the children to hospital.
Canine psychologist Roger Mugford told the court that three-year-old Dotty should not be put down and described her as "an utterly placid, playful dog."
Princess Anne's lawyer, Hugo Keith, said Dotty was "a good-natured dog."
"All those who know the dog have found her exceptionally good and wholly lacking in malice," he said. "She is described by one person who knows her well as a 'big puppy.' "
Keith said the dog had only "nipped" the children and that the boys would make a full recovery.
But the children's family said the youngsters had been traumatized by the attack.
The judge said the children "did suffer considerably" from their run-in with Dotty.
"It was a very, very unfortunate episode and I can only hope that the children, as time goes by, will become more amenable to dogs," she said.