Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Judge must pay $500 to woman hurt by dog

Judge Mary Beth Sharp pleaded guilty to being in possession of a dog that startled a person. Photo / File
Judge Mary Beth Sharp pleaded guilty to being in possession of a dog that startled a person. Photo / File

A District Court judge who was walking her son's dog when it injured a woman has been discharged without conviction and ordered to pay $500 compensation to the victim.

Judge Mary Beth Sharp yesterday pleaded guilty in Auckland District Court to being in possession of a dog that startled a person, causing injury, after the Auckland Council withdrew a more serious charge of owning a dog that attacked a person, which she denied.

Sharp did not appear in person.

The court was told that Sharp, who is named on the court record as Mary-Elizabeth Willis, was walking her son's boxer dog, George, near her home in Papakura on the morning of February 10 last year.

Margot Bryant was also going for a walk and the two were talking when George jumped up and injured Mrs Bryant's right forearm.

"Day to day it wasn't easy," Mrs Bryant said in court.

"I'd hate it to happen to anyone else. I have two grandchildren, the love of my life. I'd hate it if anything happened to them," she said.

The court was told the dog was on a leash and quickly restrained, and Sharp's lawyer, Michael Reed, QC, said it was accidental.

"There was no intent. It wasn't even her dog."

Sharp and her family had behaved "impeccably" towards the victim, offering financial assistance, even baking her a cake, Mr Reed said.

The dog had gone to a "dog guru expert" for treatment, and no longer jumped so it was not necessary for it to be destroyed.

Judge Kevin Phillips granted a discharge without conviction on the grounds that, in order of importance:

• Auckland Council supported the application.
• The dog was under control at the time of the incident and immediately restrained.
• Sharp had an unblemished record.
• A conviction would adversely impact on her job as a judge.

"It is quite clear that the consequences [of a conviction] are out of all proportion to the gravity of the offending," Judge Phillips said.

The dog was "well trained and extremely well socialised" and he did not order it to be destroyed.

Mr Reed said outside court that Sharp did not appear before Judge Phillips because it was not necessary unless there was a chance of imprisonment.

"There's nothing unusual about that at all," he said. "She's busy working."

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 24 Apr 2014 12:57:13 Processing Time: 674ms