Day One Of Lennox Appeal Hearing – 16th September 2011
On the first day of the appeal hearing the court heard from three Belfast City Council dog wardens who were all involved in Lennox’s seizure. As the day progressed those within the court room listened and heard three different versions of events, three varying statements were given by the three wardens on the stand who all took an oath before giving their evidence.
The main focus of the day’s hearing was fixed on one particular dog warden who led the seizure of Lennox from his home in May 2010. On one occasion this warden was being pressed for an answer regarding an earlier video that the court had watched in which another member of Belfast City Council had quite clearly stated on the video that Lennox had “bitten someone who was here before” again pressed for an answer this warden was asked if Lennox had ever bitten anyone whilst in the care of Belfast City Council, the warden turned to the Barrister and finally answered “No.”
The Belfast City Council dog warden continued to be cross examined for a while but looking now quite anxious and irate giving her answers Judge Derek Rodgers finally called a halt to proceedings to allow for a short lunch break.
Again questions arise as to why these three dog wardens employed by Belfast City Council feel the need to give three variations of their statements and why one staff member was clearly seen and heard on a video played to the court room stating Lennox had bitten someone when all those involved knew this to be untrue.
The first day’s proceedings ended with only the Belfast City Council dog wardens taking to the stand. Judge Derek Rodgers asked for the court to resume the following Friday for a second day to enable all witnesses to take the stand.
Day Two Of Lennox Appeal Hearing – 23rd September 2011
The second day of Lennox’s appeal hearing heard from the remaining witnesses, Peter Tallack acting as expert witness for Belfast City Council, Sarah Fisher acting as Lennox’s expert witness and Ms Barnes, Lennox’s registered owner.
First to take the witness stand was Peter Tallack (Pictured) acting for Belfast City Council as breed identifier. Peter Tallack, an ex Metropolitan Police PC of 25 years who acted as a dog handler whilst serving as a PC until his retirement. Mr Tallack took the witness stand to be cross examined and as proceedings progressed Mr Tallack’s replies became more aggressive and agitated as he seemed extremely uncomfortable during which he continually fidgeted. In a bizarre outburst a flustered, blush faced Mr Tallack who was seemingly attempting to evade a question when being cross examined took from his pocket a handkerchief, wiped his face and brow several times, sipped from a glass of water before boasting to Judge Derek Rodgers “Your Honour I am sorry I cannot continue as people in the gallery are looking at me.” Before leaving the witness stand Mr Tallack implied that as Ms Barnes walks with a limp she should not own a dog of such size or strength, this comment was immediately halted by Ms Barnes Barrister who objected to Mr Tallack’s comment stating “You are not a medical professional and therefore you do not know my clients medical history.”
Next to take the witness stand was Sarah Fisher (Pictured) acting as Lennox’s behavioural expert. Sarah Fisher has many years experience working with all types of animals and is one of the UK’s leading professionals in animal behaviour. Sarah Fisher is also accredited as the UK’s highest qualified Equine and Companion Animal TTouch Instructor and runs the UK TTouch Centre that offers help in training, handling and rehabilitation of horses and companion animals. Sarah Fisher explained her findings to the court and also points of importance that had been raised in her assessment video that had been shown to the court on day one of the appeal. The court heard much expert evidence from Sarah Fisher regarding Lennox’s physical and mental condition and finished her cross examination by explaining that Lennox is a “friendly dog” who “does not pose a threat to the public” Before leaving the witness stand Judge Derek Rodgers took time to thank Sarah Fisher for her evidence.
Finally the court heard from Lennox’s owner. Ms Barnes took to the witness stand and when cross examined explained to the court and Judge Derek Rodgers how her Daughter and Lennox bonded from a very early age due to her Daughters ongoing health problems that stops her Daughter from playing outside like most normal children do each day, the court heard how Lennox has acted as a therapy dog for Ms Barnes Daughter. Ms Barnes continued by telling the court that since Lennox’s seizure by Belfast City Council that her ill Daughter has been distraught, lonely and not the same child and explained how Lennox’s absence has disrupted the entire Family’s everday life. Continuing to be cross examined by Belfast City Council’s Barrister Ms Barnes, who has other pets and also foster’s dogs, maintained that she would not have kept Lennox if he posed any danger. “Much as I love dogs and I have worked with dogs for over 20 years, my first priority is as a mother,” she told Belfast County Court.
Steven Molloy, Barrister for Belfast City Council, put it to Ms Barnes that Lennox deals poorly with stressful situations and strangers, “He’s waiting to go off,” he said. Ms Barnes replied: “No, he’s not waiting to go off. What you need to understand is that to Lennox a stressful situation is strangers forcing themselves physically on him.” Mr Molloy continued by claiming all the evidence pointed to the dog being dangerous and capable of attacking without notice but Ms Barnes insisted: “No, it’s not correct. All dogs have four legs, they all have teeth and they all have capabilities.”
Judge Derek Rodgers will give his decision on Lennox’s fate this Friday 30th September at Belfast Laganside Courts.