Hattersley harbours ferocious killer

Former Labour deputy leader fined pounds 75 by the beak after his dog is involved in bloody killing of Royal goose
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The last time the Labour MP and former minister Roy Hattersley declined to appear for a public engagement, the producers of BBC2's satirical Have I Got News For You memorably replaced him with a tub of lard.

Yesterday, when the eloquent elder statesman exercised his right not to appear at Bow Street Magistrates, central London, there was no obvious cooking material on show; but the culinary theme was kept alive in a hearing dominated by a dead goose.

The bird in question was an innocent grey-lag goose lounging in St James's Park before it was fatally savaged by the Birmingham MP's Staffordshire bull terrier, Buster.

To a courtroom crowded with journalists for a case lasting just three minutes, Richard Heatley, for the prosecution, outlined the main details of the offences.

He described how police officers patrolling the park at 8.15am on April 8 this year came across the goose so badly injured it was "close to death".

Within an hour witnesses had fingered the former shadow Home Secretary's "small brown dog" and Mr Hattersley was interviewed and cautioned at his nearby home.

At this point, the stipendary magistrate, Ronald Bartell, intervened to ask whether the unfortunate goose had been destroyed, to be told that sadly, the animal had died "as a result of its injuries".

The courtroom revelations did not stop there. Questioned by the police, Mr Hattersley said he thought his pet had been chasing a squirrel rather than a goose, and later in his letter of mitigation described how he "cleared up" after his hound had responded to a call of nature - only for the dog to escape.

Mr Hattersely, who pleaded guilty by letter to two offences in breach of Royal Park regulations, added the dog had not been intentionally let loose, and that he "much regretted" the goose's demise.

He also promised to the court he would keep Buster on a tighter leash in future to ensure no repetition of the incident.

The MP, who is standing down at the next general election, was fined pounds 75 for allowing the dog off the lead and permitting it to attack the goose, and ordered to pay pounds 30 costs.

Later a spokesman for Mr Hattersley, who was speaking in his Sparkbrook constituency yesterday, issued a statement from Mr Hattersley again regretting the incident but clearly pointing the finger at his dog's headstrong nature. "He [Buster] was never detached from the lead. Unfortunately, I was."

His office was unable to confirm reports that Buster had paid the ultimate price for his misdeeds and been castrated after the April attack.

But the dog has clearly been rehabilitated in the politician's household - today he joins his owner for walkies in Derbyshire.