Menacing woman walks free

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 15:30 14/02/2014
Margaret Dodds
John Kirk-Anderson

CHARGES DROPPED: Margaret Dodds has been repeatedly warned against approaching children.

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Problems continue for the authorities trying to curb the behaviour of a woman who has a history of violence and repeatedly turns up where children are playing.

Margaret Mabel Dodds walked free from the Christchurch Court House again today when police decided to drop the latest charge against her.

At previous appearances she has had deferred sentences - she would be brought back to court on that charge if she offended again - or a discharge without penalty.

In September she got a 60-hour sentence of community work on a trespass charge. The minimum sentence is 40 hours.

Dodds, 58, is a voluntary patient at the Seagar Clinic at Princess Margaret Hospital but she is not held there under any order and is free to leave the clinic and move about the city as she pleases during the day.

Police arrested her on Monday after a man confronted her when she spoke to his two children aged 6 and 8 as they rode scooters between Thorrington School and Princess Margaret Hospital.

The man said he was concerned that she was someone who had previously been arrested over unwanted attention to children in the area. He then followed her until the police arrived.

Dodds was charged with behaving in a disorderly manner in Cashmere Road in circumstances that were likely to cause violence to start.

Before her appearance before Judge John Strettell in the Christchurch District Court today they reviewed the file and decided it could not proceed.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Jon Harris asked for the charge to be withdrawn, and the judge granted that application, so Dodds was free to go straight away.

It is understood that the police review accepted that her actions in approaching the children did not amount to an offence.

Dodds has had trespass orders issued against her in many parts of town. She has been banned from some shopping centres, schools, a sports centre, parks, and buses.

She was the subject of a warning by the parent of a child on social media because of her aggressive behaviour.

Posters with a photograph of her were circulated around schools, for staff members to see.

Her behaviour prompted police to send a warning to schools that she could be abusive when asked to move on.

She has also been jailed three times as part of a criminal history which includes 19 assaults on caregivers.

Last year, she was charged with trespass for going into Barrington Mall where she had been issued with a two-year trespass notice on July 20, 2012. She was spotted sitting on a seat inside the mall in November 2013. She said she had been at nearby Barrington Park but had gone into the mall because she was cold.

Earlier, in September, she admitted trespassing at the Pioneer Recreation and Sports Centre where she had also been banned since July 2012. She said she had gone into the sports complex to use the toilet.

She was given a deferred sentence earlier in 2013 on similar charges. She had been arrested for trespassing at Pioneer centre after she was caught drinking glass cleaner, and for trespassing at the Cashmere Valley Reserve where she had been banned two months earlier.

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There have been concerns about her hanging around parks and other places where children gather and sometimes threatening them. Photographs and details of her outings have sometimes been put on Facebook by concerned people.

- The Press

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