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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 17:06 GMT
Princess Royal fined over dog attack
Princess Anne has been fined £500 and ordered to pay £500 compensation after pleading guilty to a charge that one of her dogs attacked two children.
The court also ordered her to keep the English bull terrier - known as Dotty - on a lead in public, to organise training for the animal and to pay £148 court costs.
The case is the first time a senior member of the Royal Family has been convicted of a criminal offence, and no other senior royal has attended court for 100 years.
But the sentence has been criticised by members of the victims' families, who were angry that the dog was not ordered to be put down.
The Princess Royal appeared before a district judge in Berkshire to answer the charge under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
The case against Princess Anne's husband, Commodore Tim Laurence, was dropped shortly after the hearing began.
Passing judgement, District Judge Penelope Hewitt accepted the royal couple were experienced owners.
But she warned any future incidents could result in the animal being put down.
'Justice not done'
She said: "I have to add that these children did suffer considerably from this experience... it was a very, very unfortunate episode."
Relatives of the two boys involved criticised the sentence, calling it "neither moral nor just".
"We do not think justice has been done. The dog is still free and is a danger to society," they said, in a statement to the Press Association.
The penalties for the offence can include a £5,000 fine, six months imprisonment and the animal being destroyed.
The court heard that the couple had been putting the dogs into their car on 1 April, after walking them in Windsor Great Park.
But the bull terrier escaped and attacked two boys - aged 12 and seven - who were riding their bikes.
The 12-year-old suffered a bite on the collarbone and two bites to the left leg.
The seven-year-old had scratch marks on his right forearm, back and left leg.
Both were taken to hospital in a "traumatised state" but neither needed stitches, the court heard.
The princess was ordered to pay £250 compensation to each of the boys.
In mitigation the princess' defence said Dotty was a good natured dog "lacking in malice".
Hugo Keith, defending, said the Princess Royal regretted the incident and the dog's actions were completely out of character.
Dog psychologist Dr Roger Mugford also told the court that in his opinion the three-year-old animal should not be put down.
The 52-year-old princess and her husband arrived at the court shortly before 0950 GMT, accompanied by her two children, Peter and Zara Philips.
Appearing as Anne Elizabeth Alice Laurence, she admitted having a dog dangerously out of control.
The hearing lasted approximately an hour.
Security at Slough Magistrates Court was stepped up for the hearing, with sniffer dogs used in the court room and special branch officers present.
Reporting restrictions preventing the media revealing the identities of the boys have been imposed by the court.
Princess Anne did not attend a previous hearing because she was on a charity visit to Ethiopia.
The Princess Royal had made it clear she did not want preferential treatment.
Do you think the Princess was treated fairly? Should the dogs have been put down? You sent us your comments.
As an owner of a bull terrier - they are fun loving and full of energy. Our dog loves people, but hates anything with wheels on it!!!
Andre Murray, USA
I think the Pricess did the right thing, she is a good honest person and she paid for her dogs, she did nothing wrong.
Bicycles or skateboards often tend to trigger a defensive response in dogs. Unfortunate that they broke away. It's not a perfect world.
She got off easy. If that had been a member of the public, their dog would have been destroyed, and they would be fined a lot more.
I think it's a great step forward for the monarchy that they can be held accountable and that the monarchy is changing, all respect to Anne.
I don't think that the dog should be put down, but the princess got off easy with a slight fine. I would hope the kids parents take her to civil court for civil damages.
Barrie Martindale, Canada
Absolute disgrace. She should have been fined twice as much and the dog should been destroyed. One law for the royals and a different law for everybody else.
It seems the dog was not deliberately let free, but it broke away on its own. Also the injuries sustained were not serious as none required stitches. Some trauma has been caused to the boys but as they are young they will pull through.
Bull terriers are notoriously strong animals that can inflict a lot of damage to human beings, for this kind of dog to inflict bites that don't require stitches and is worrying but the dog was probably just playing.
If the victim's families knew a thing or two about dogs they would probably not have pursued action. I wonder what they were pursuing in truth: compensation..?
This sentence will do nothing to discourage the improper keeping of dangerous dogs. Year in and year out children are killed by such dogs. Only a complete ban is a reasonable measure.
Thomas, United States
If Anne was from a council estate you can bet your life the dog would have been put down.
And why were the regular magistrates at Slough banned from hearing the case ...unusually a district judge stepped in?
I'm glad the dog wasn't put down. I think a fine was most appropriate, especially if there had been no similar incidents in the past. All dogs can be unpredictable but it doesn't mean they routinely savage small children.
Mike Crawford, UK
Sounds to me like the princess stood up, admitted the offence and took her punishment which sounded fair and reasonable. End of story I think.
Much as I love dogs, my experience is that dogs that bite once go on to bite again. As such, Princess Anne's dog should have been put down and it is a poor example to the rest of the country that this has not happened.
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
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