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Legal system branded an ‘absolute disgrace’

A woman has launched a scathing attack on the island’s legal system after the man whose dog killed her pet dachshund was given an absolute discharge and allowed to walk free from court.

Amy Ponnampalam said she felt “no sense of justice” after John Tomlinson was sentenced having pleaded guilty to two charges relating to the fatal dog attack on November 2014.

For more than two years and over several hearings, Tomlinson had maintained not guilty pleas to the charges, but last Thursday he changed his plea on the day he was due to stand trial.

Magistrate Archibald Warner imposed an absolute discharge allowing Tomlinson to walk free from court and imposed no sanctions on the dog responsible for the attack.

“I find it an absolute disgrace that a man who has pleaded guilty to two criminal charges under the Dogs Act 2008, which resulted in death and severe injury to two dogs respectively, has been allowed to walk away unpunished for his crimes,” Ms Ponnampalam said.

“As the victim I have received no sense of justice, and have not even been fully compensated for the veterinary bills I incurred in the treatment of my surviving dog or the loss of a purebred dog, not to mention the emotional impact that this tragic attack has had on me.”

Tomlinson’s three boxers escaped from his Jennings Road property in November 2014 and roamed on to Ms Ponnampalam’s property, where one of his dogs attacked her two dachshunds, Annie and Briea.

Annie died as a result of the attack, while Briea sustained serious injuries that required emergency treatment.

Tomlinson was originally charged with keeping or being in control of the dog responsible for the attack that caused the death of Annie, as well as the injuries to Briea.

When he first appeared in court his lawyer, Saul Dismont, argued that the case had not been brought in time and the case was dismissed.

But prosecutors successfully appealed against the decision of the Magistrates’ Court in February 2016 and the prosecution was reinstated.

Over the past 15 months, several trial dates have passed as the case has been repeatedly delayed until Thursday, when Tomlinson admitted the charges.

Ms Ponnampalam, who has since left Bermuda, said: “I have to question whether the Bermuda judiciary and Department of Public Prosecutions have acted in the public interest in enabling an absolute discharge to be granted to Mr Tomlinson.

“They have set a very dangerous precedent whereby irresponsible dog owners may not be held accountable for their crimes which is entirely misaligned with Bermuda’s desire to promote safe and responsible dog ownership.

“This case has taken over two years to come to trial due to a catalogue of procedural issues and delays on the part of the DPP, the Bermuda judiciary and Mr Tomlinson. The entire prosecution process has provided a disturbing insight into the Bermuda justice system and has left me, my family and friends horrified that such an outcome has been made possible.”

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.