Just got this desperate email from Jill.... For those unfamiliar with this story - Jill is an air stewardess, should you puzzle at the chicken or beef reference. If you've not heard about this case before click here.
In brief - Jill and Peter are totally normal law-abiding people, living a simple life with their four pet Standard Poodles. One evening cows in the next field knocked their fence down and two of the Poodles escaped. A night of searching and fretting ended with the two dogs finding their way home tired and hungry and soaking wet - it had been a very stormy night. All was well until the police knocked at the door and arrested Peter and took the dogs away to secure kennels. Three months later they had not seen their dogs and were frightened they would be killed. The dogs were released on bail - but the couple now face ruin. Despite a lack of tangible evidence to link the two dogs to an incident of sheep worrying the case is due to go to court and if the criminal court find them guilty the civil case that follows will bankrupt them. The police did a flawed doggie ID parade and the local papers printed a rumour that the Poodles were involved as fact.
They live on the breadline in rented accommodation. They have already used their life savings (£500) on the solicitor they call 'the bulldog'.
Can we start a fighting fund so these poor people don't go into court without a defence? Could one of the existing charities open up a special "Two poodle Martyr fighting fund" appeal so we can all pay into it? We can't stand by and watch them go into court unrepresented - with just a duty solicitor who wouldn't have a clue what to do in such a very odd and I would think a precedent case.
I'm sure if they win (and with a decent barrister this case would surely crumble) they should be awarded costs (although I'm no expert - but I did used to watch Crown Court when I was a kid - but that was a long, long time ago!). Any money we raise could go to help anyone else caught in a similar mess.
There has to be justice done here. Jill and Peter's lives will potentially be ruined by the actions of some frisky cows that meant their dogs were at large that night without an alibi. The police found no forensic evidence to link the dogs with the sheep - how can the case go to court on purely circumstantial evidence and a ID parade potentially skewed by biased newspaper reporting - plus the police using a line up of miscellaneous single dogs of breeds that look nothing like Poodles - and then two Poodles they wanted picking together in the one kennel... Hell, if we don't raise the money I'll go down and stand up for them, you could drive a bus through the prosecution's case. But I'm sure we could get someone a lot better qualified!!
Here's Jill's latest email, I just wish I could win the lottery and pay for the best brief possible - do we have any lovely readers of this blog that still believe in British justice and standing up for the little guy? Oh I do hope so!!
"Hello - and I am sorry not to have emailed before, but we have been waiting to hear if we have got Legal Aid, and we really don't seem to be lucky. Someone out there really doesn't like us. After having the first lot of paperwork sent back, and a second lot requested, they have come back and said no. We now have to try for the 'hardship' clause. This really isn't easy, and we were just over the 'limit' for having legal aid. It really does make me want to declare ourselves bankrupt or claim we are illegal asylum seekers. I am sorry to say that but life really doesn't seem to be on our side.
"Peter went back to court a couple of weeks ago, and as the legal aid issue hadn't been decided yet, our solicitor wasn't present. He obviously said that he couldn't plead as he didn't have legal representation, but the magistrate make him use the court solicitor and enter a plea. It was obviously not guilty. It really doesn't appear fair, as I am sure that the court solicitor is great at GBH, drunk and disorderly charges etc, but dog law is rather specialised. At that time they said that he had to go back to court on 3rd December and present his case, and booked the trial for 10/11th January. However, the bulldog said that he cant do the January dates, as he is elsewhere, and doesn't actually have a free date until March 2008! It doesn't look as if the bulldog is going to do the 3rd Dec date either! Talk about feeling alone, and left high and dry! The bulldog's secretary has said that he will write to the court and explain that as he wasn't present when they made the 10/11th Jan dates, they will have to be rescheduled, but I don't hold out much hope. Various people that I have talked to have said that the court really wont change it, so we really don't have a leg to stand on. At the moment we are trying to come up with some assurance that we could pay the bulldog, even if it means going seriously into debt, but I don't think he will consider it.
"I am at the moment trying to get the paperwork together for the 'hardship' case'. Luckily I am in the country for 24 hours, so have been trying to pull together all the relevant paperwork. This job really doesn't make it easy.
"On a much brighter note, Jenni and Minki are GREAT, and getting LOTS of cuddles and kisses! They are gradually getting better, but are still very clingy, which I can go with! Minki is enjoying playing with the puppies, William and Milli, and it is really fantastic to watch them running and chasing each other in the garden. They use the garden rather like a race track, and steam around after each other.......and I thought greyhounds were fast! Jenni is still taking herself off to our bed to be alone, and she really does seem to have aged - if the increase in grey poodle hairs are anything to go by!
"We want Dr Roger Mugford to do an assessment on them, but of course we will have to wait and see if we get that all important legal aid! I think that when I get back from this next trip, on Wednesday, I will ring him. I feel that his input will be vital.
"It looks as if the case hinges on the doggie id parade, which is seriously suspect, but without legal advice it is hard to say. We still haven't got a copy of Peter's statement, so we cant even go through that! It is all just so horrible. There is a cottage on the farm, which was occupied by a young couple, who have since been sent packing, because they were causing serious problems. It is from the girl that the sheep farmer got the idea of our poodles, and went ranting and raving to anyone who would listen to him. She, apparently, said that she had seen 'the poodles' out in the cow fields, which is true. They were, but they were with us and the puppies we had left from the litter. We were walking them in the cow fields behind the farm because we didn't want to try crossing the race track they call a road to get to the woods! Not safe at all with all the little ones!
"Well, what to do now? Peter is due in court in a week's time, and we still don't have any definite legal representation. All we can do is get the next lot of paperwork off to the Legal Aid people, cross fingers, hope and pray!
"Well, got to go and sleep!! More 'chicken or beef' tomorrow, and hopefully, no more medical emergencies ( yes I have had more!) or young Russian males who we nearly got the police to arrest on landing. My, I do have a 'glamorous' job!"