Dog owner says prosecution 'a farce'
DAVID CLARKSON AND NICOLE MATHEWSON
A Cashmere man described a Christchurch City Council prosecution as a shambles and a farce before he was ordered to pay a fine and costs totalling $455 for walking his dog without a leash.
Michael Bruce Stringer, 64, tried to defend himself at the hearing before justices of the peace in the Christchurch District Court today, but in the end the infringement was found proved.
Stringer tried to ask questions and make submissions, but most of that was ruled as irrelevant.
When he told one witness his evidence was "bollocks", JP Bob McGregor told him: "I don't want any argy-bargy going on, thank you."
When he went into the witness box in his defence, he shuffled through papers and then said he had nothing to say.
When city council prosecutor Jamie Ling questioned him about whether he had walked his dog about 5.30am on February 27 in Victoria Park, where dogs are required to be on a leash, he replied: "I may have. I do it regularly."
Wayne Stackhouse had given evidence of being out running with his wife when he saw Stringer with his german shepherd dog not on a leash. He saw him in Victoria Park.
Stringer disagreed that Stackhouse would have been able to see him in the park.
"I felt nervous around the dog," Stackhouse told the court. "I have spoken to him in the past and told him he should have the dog on a lead."
Evidence was given by dog-control officer Rowyn Hocking of taking the complaint and interviewing Stringer, who admitted he often walked his dogs off a leash. He was issued with a $300 infringement notice.
The case ended up at court when Stringer refused to pay.
Stringer said in his closing statement that the council had failed to establish that it was his dog, but the JPs ruled that had been proved.
Stringer told the court that he believed the prosecution had been "initiated and executed by the council" on behalf of one man who had taken offence at something Stringer said to him.
"He appears to have hounded the council to get this result."
Stringer said he believed the infringement penalty was "grossly over the top and out of all proportion".
Ling said the council regarded it as low-level offending but Stringer had shown no remorse. She asked for a $400 fine, plus costs.
The JPs imposed a $300 fine, plus costs.
DOG OWNER 'FLABBERGASTED'
Yesterday, Stringer told The Press he was "flabbergasted" the city council was willing to spend thousands taking him to court to recover a $300 fine for walking his dog through Victoria Park without a lead.
The self-described "eccentric semi-retired accountant" said he had paid two fines for committing the same offence previously, but this time refused to accept any wrongdoing and told the council he would not be changing his ways.
The council sent him reminder notices to pay the fine on April 5 and May 15 and when he refused they made an application for a defended hearing in the Christchurch District Court.
Stringer believed the council could have spent more than $10,000 ahead of today's hearing, and he thought it was "fascinating" they would go to such lengths to recover only $300.
"[It's] because I said I will not put my dog on a lead at five in the morning and they said 'we're the city council, you will'.
"You can't beat city hall," he said.
Stringer said Kazairl had never bitten anyone "that I'm aware of" and had always stayed within three or four metres when they were walking.
They had gone on the same walk through the popular reserve almost every morning until Kazairl's health began to decline this year.
The council said Victoria Park was listed as a leashed dog area under the council's dog policy because of its high recreational use by the public. The bylaw applied 24 hours, 7 days a week.
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