After 3 years and £60,000, dog gets death row reprieve

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The Independent Online

A dog who has been on death row for more than three years finally won a reprieve yesterday after a legal battle which cost his owners £60,000.

A dog who has been on death row for more than three years finally won a reprieve yesterday after a legal battle which cost his owners £60,000.

The fate of Dino, a seven-and-a-half-year-old German shepherd, appeared to have been sealed when a magistrate ordered him to be destroyed for attacking a woman in a park in July 2001. But yesterday a judge lifted the order, praising the tenacity of the dog's owner, Bryan Lamont, and bringing an end to a case that has been heard by legal experts from Northampton to Strasbourg.

"A dog will have his day, said the Bard, and Mr Lamont's devotion has allowed Dino to have his day," said Patrick Eccles QC at Northampton Crown Court. "If a Scotsman with deep pockets and spirit takes on the judiciary to vindicate his dog, the contest is likely to be vigorous and prolonged."

The saga of Dino began in Grangewood Park, Northampton, in January 2001 when he attacked a five-year-old terrier called Ralph, who was being walked by Elizabeth Coull and her two godchildren. When Mrs Coull tried to pull the animals apart, Dino bit through the palm of her right hand and the knuckle of her index finger on her left hand, damaging tendons and causing injury.

Magistrates originally ordered Dino to be destroyed under the Dangerous Dogs Act, fined Mr Lamont, an operations director from East Hunsbury, Northampton, £100 and ordered him to pay £2,552 compensation.

Although the Lamonts, who look after the dog with their two daughters, Danielle, 18, and Carly, 15, paid the fine and compensation immediately, they decided to challenge the destruction order.

They insisted the attack was a one-off but their case appeared to have been weakened when, in July 2001, Mr Lamont admitted allowing Dino to be out of control in Grangewood Park again causing an injury to another dog owner.

When the family began the process of appeal, helped by Trevor Cooper, a specialist solicitor, they said they were prepared to spend up to £65,000. A judge at Northampton Crown Court rejected their appeal three years ago. Two months later the High Court refused a judicial review.

In April 2002, the House of Lords dismissed the case without even hearing it, leaving the Lamonts to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. That court rejected the plea in April this year.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which was set up in 1995 to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice, was the last resort for the Lamonts. The CCRC, which has considered notorious cases involving the murderers Derek Bentley, James Hanratty and Ruth Ellis but never that of a dog, deliberated on the rights and wrongs of Dino's fate and decided to send the case back to Crown Court.

Mr Lamont was in court yesterday with his daughter Carly. He said he was "absolutely delighted" with the verdict and had immediately phoned his wife Carol - who stayed at home in Northampton to look after Dino - and she was "absolutely over the moon and delighted".