John Hirst and "Rocky" found not guilty
John Hirst who was released in 2004 after serving 25 years in prison for manslaughter and who spent much of the latter part of his sentence litigating with some success against the government and prison service has won his latest encounter with the authorities.
It seems that a number of park keepers at a local park where Mr Hirst enjoyed exercising his dog had found out about his past and resented his using the park. After an altercation earlier this year in which it was alleged that his dog Rocky had bitten a park keeper Mr Hirst was arrested and charged under the Dangerous Dogs Act s.3 with having a dog "dangerously out of control and causing injury", an offence which could have resulted in a death sentence for Rocky and a further charge of common assault to cover an allegation that the dog had bitten the park keeper in response to direct command to "kill him" from Mr Hirst. It should be pointed out that Rocky is a cross breed Labrador/Retriever and more likely to lick you to death than do any other lasting damage!
The prosecution had originally lined up all their heavy artillery including a bad character application relating to previous alleged incidents of bad behaviour by Rocky, with supporting evidence at least twice as lengthy as the evidence to be used to support the present charges, and an application for an ASBO in the event of conviction. The bad character application was resisted on the basis, inter alia, that the bad character of the dog was not admissible even under the wide ranging terms of section 101 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and even before the trial as due to begin the prosecution had evidently thought better of that part of the case.
The allegation of common assault was then found to be untenable as well when the prosecution's dog behaviour expert agreed with the defence expert that a dog like Rocky wouldn't have the faintest idea what the command to "kill" meant! When the judge then weighed in with the view that the time of the Crown Court might be better spent on other cases the prosecution were left to enquire whether Mr Hirst would consider accepting a bind-over which he agreed to on the basis that not guilty verdicts were entered on both counts of the indictment.
The case is a good example of why it is not a good idea to overcharge (a minor public order charge would have been more appropriate) and then to seek to blow the case out of all proportion especially against such an experienced litigator as Mr Hirst.