'Send me to prison over dog mess fine' says Roger Hobkinson, former cop from Newquay
A FORMER policeman from Newquay is refusing to pay a £754 fine for dog-fouling, saying: "They can send me to prison if they want."
Roger Hobkinson, 72, claims he is being victimised by Cornwall Council's dog wardens, saying they lie in wait for him with binoculars at the Gannel estuary where he walks Dalmatian Henry.
The pensioner has been fined four times since 2010, costing him £1,656, including a £100 penalty and £654 in legal costs imposed by magistrates on Friday.
He told the Cornish Guardian he always picked up after Henry when he saw him do his business, but eagle-eyed wardens often spotted doggy toilet trips when his back was turned.
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"How can I watch him every second? It's ridiculous," he said.
"I'll pay the £100 fine but I'm not going to pay those costs. They can put me in prison if they want; I'll get to watch Sky telly all day.
"I've had enough of them now. It's an absolute disgrace the way I'm being victimised here.
"I'm a responsible dog-walker – I used to be a copper and I volunteer with the National Trust as a litter-picker, for heaven's sake."
Mr Hobkinson, of Clifden Close, said he walked Henry as a favour to his owner, Jackie Ward, who was left disabled after contracting a virus three years ago.
He generally let Henry off his lead on the marshy area of the Gannel known as the Saltings, hitting a golf ball for the dog to retrieve.
Mr Hobkinson argued it was impossible to pick up dog mess on areas of the Saltings as it was so overgrown and boggy, and the tide would always come in to wash it away in any case.
"It's a personal vendetta," he said. "They wait for me with their binoculars.
"They know the dog so every time I go down there and the dog does a poo that I don't see, I'm going to get done. The dog warden has never once asked me to show him that I've got dog bags, and I always carry them with me. If I see the dog do a poo I clean it up."
Truro Magistrates' Court heard last week that a dog warden had observed Mr Hobkinson hitting a golf ball across the Saltings on May 22 this year.
Cornwall Council lawyer Karen Tambling said: "The Dalmatian ran to the vicinity of the golf ball, squatted and fouled on the ground.
"At no time did he [Mr Hobkinson] pay any attention to the Dalmatian or attempt to pick up the faeces.
"It's clear that the defendant has a total disregard for the health and wellbeing of the general public," she said.
Mr Hobkinson, who did not attend Friday's hearing but had pleaded guilty, was given 28 days to pay the full amount of £754.45.
The council's public health and protection team welcomed Mr Hobkinson's prosecution, saying it sent a "clear message" to irresponsible dog-owners.
Allan Hampshire, head of the department, said: "I'm pleased the magistrates have handed out such a high-level fine.
"The issue of dog fouling and irresponsible dog-ownership blights many residents of Cornwall. This sends a clear message to the small minority of irresponsible dog-owners that if you don't clear up after your dog, the courts will fine you.
"Our Public Health and Protection service is the only local authority department in the country approved by Defra to provide training to other officers, internal and external, to issue fixed penalty notices for dog-fouling and littering. We've trained officers from quite a few local town and parish councils in Cornwall. We're also training employees of our waste contractor Cory to undertake a similar role, as well as PCSOs and police officers. All this work increases the number of people in our communities who are able to address these antisocial behaviour issues, but what we really want is for dog-owners themselves to be responsible for their pets and their actions.
"For action to be taken it's important that the offence is witnessed. Signed witness statements from individual members of the public can be used by officers for the purpose of issuing fixed-penalty notices. We welcome help and support from the general public to identify offenders and to assist us in improving local communities."