A landscape gardener fined for failing to keep his dog on a lead in Caldecott Park was branded “pig-headed and stupid” by a judge at Coventry Crown Court.
Judge Philip Gregory made the comments to Eric Barker after dismissing his appeal against the conviction, advising him: “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”
The appeal hearing last Friday followed Mr Barker’s appearance before magistrates at Nuneaton’s Warwickshire Justice Centre in August, where he was convicted of breaching a dog control order.
Magistrates heard Caldecott Park’s ranger spotted a dog off its lead in the park on 12 January 2015 and, while looking for its owner, saw Barker’s white van parked in a nearby alley.
Barker was working in a resident’s garden next to the park and, when asked by the ranger, confirmed the dog - a Yorkshire Terrier Maltese cross called Doggie - was his.
The ranger explained a dog control order required dogs to be kept on a lead in the park - and owners who flouted the order risked an £80 fixed penalty notice.
But the following day the ranger again spotted the dog off its lead in the park - and when he approached Barker to remind him about keeping it on a lead, Barker became abusive.
The council’s dog warden and environmental enforcement wardens were called, and Barker was issued with a fixed penalty notice.
But he refused to give his details - despite his name and contact numbers being displayed on his van - or accept the notice, and walked back into the garden where he was working.
Barker, of Oxendon Way, Binley, Coventry, denied breaching the dog control, telling magistrates the council’s witnesses were “concocting” evidence and claiming the case was a “conspiracy” - prompting magistrates to warn him he risked being in contempt of court.
After finding him guilty, magistrates fined Barker £100 and ordered him to pay £627 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.
At the appeal hearing, Barker told the court he had put his apprentice in charge of the dog on the day wardens attempted to serve him with the fixed penalty notice, and the dog had entered the park after the apprentice visited a nearby shop.
Barker said the apprentice was to blame for breaching the dog control order - a suggestion rejected by Judge Gregory, who dismissed his appeal against the conviction and upheld the fine.
After hearing health problems had prevented 68-year-old Barker from working in recent months, Judge Gregory agreed to reduce the costs payable to the council to £150 and ordered Barker to pay both the fine and the costs in monthly instalments of £30.
But when Barker said he could not afford to pay, Judge Gregory told him: “You will have to sell your house. You have got off very lightly.
“The council are entitled to costs as you have been pig-headed and stupid.
“I would advise you that when you’re in a hole, stop digging.”
Speaking after the hearing, Cllr Lisa Parker, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for sustainable environment, said: “The borough’s parks, cemeteries and green spaces should be a safe environment, free from dog fouling, and owners who fail to comply with our dog control orders rightly run the risk of a fine.
“I’m delighted the court has supported our stance by throwing out this appeal, and am particularly pleased the judge noted the polite and professional way our staff dealt with the case, both at the time of the incident and during the hearing.”
For more information on the council’s dog control orders, visit www.rugby.gov.uk/dogcontrol