COUNTY NEWS: RAF veteran fined after losing challenge to dog mess laws

John Churchill was fined and received a criminal record for mess from his dog Shaka (right) that he cleared up. Picture: Stephen Goodger
John Churchill was fined and received a criminal record for mess from his dog Shaka (right) that he cleared up. Picture: Stephen Goodger

An RAF veteran has lost his challenge against dog mess laws and has been told to pay five times his original fine.

John Churchill, 77, appeared in court today to fight what he said was as an unfair fine he got after not seeing his dog Chaka’s mess.

But magistrate Ted Coleman said ‘being unaware is not a defence’ and found Mr Churchill guilty at Horsham Magistrates Court.

Dog warden Russ Akehurst told magistrates he saw Mr Churchill’s white Alsatian foul at The Sanctuary in High Salvington on March 10: “The defendant was 40 yards away and walked away.”

Mr Akehurst said he went over to Mr Churchill and told him what he had seen. Mr Churcill, who lives with his wife in Durrington Hill, then went to clear up the mess.

The dog warden added: “It is a very important conservation area and a lot of children play on the field.”

Mr Churchill said the fine was unfair since he cleared up the mess quickly: “I admit I did not see my dog defecating, I did my best.”

He took issue with the law wording, which says owners must clear mess ‘forthwith’, saying that he did.

Mr Churchill added: “I can think of no more innocent pleasure than walking my dog and now I face a criminal record for doing just that.”

Finding him guilty, Chairman of the Bench Mr Coleman said: “After the dog warden alerted you to the fact you did go and pick it up.

“There is no indication you would have done if you were not alerted. The owner being unaware is not a defence.”

He was fined £60, and must pay a £30 victim surcharge.

Mr Churchill must also pay costs of £200.

A council spokesman said: “We take dog fouling seriously. Not only is it very unpleasant it poses a health risk.

“The council provides bins for dog mess across Worthing, making it easy for owners to clean up after their pets.

“We wrote to the gentleman three times giving him the opportunity to pay the £50 Fixed Penalty Notice. A decision to take the case to court was a last resort.”

Mr Churchill said after the trial he may take the case to Crown court for an appeal.