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Norman Waterhouse

Robust investigation sees successful prosecution of high-profile dog attack

The fatal attack on the Adelaide Oval Hotel’s residential dog was covered heavily by media sparking community outpour to identify the dog responsible. As a result of the clever and diligent investigative measures implemented by the City of Port Adelaide Enfield staff (the Council), a conviction was made by the Court resulting in the destruction of the attacking dog and hefty fines to the owner.

Facts

On 21 October 2020, the owner of a four month old Cavalier King Charles was walking the dog on a lead in Hampstead Gardens. The owner noticed three people walking a black American Staffordshire Terrier, known as ‘Nero’ (the Dog). The Dog ran across the road towards the victim dog. The Dog launched itself at the Victim Dog in grabbed it in its jaw and began to shake the dog violently.

The Council determined that Ms Sylvia Giahtsidis was the owner of the Dog. On 26 October 2020, the Council received a phone call from Ms Giahtsidis presenting an alibi for her whereabouts at the relevant time. She stated that she was with her son at the time of the alleged attack and that the Dog was not involved. Later that day, the Council conducted interview with Ms Giahtsidis who again denied the Dog was involved in the attack.

The Council seized the Dog and a Destruction Order for the Dog was issued in December 2020.

The investigation into the alleged attack was significant. The Council gathered CCTV footage from residential properties near the location of the alleged attack to piece together the movements of Ms Giahtsidis, the Dog and the victim dog at the relevant time. As part of the investigation, Council commenced door knocking at a number of properties in the area where the alleged attack had occurred. Statements were taken and CCTV footage from neighbouring properties was obtained. Upon reviewing the footage, the owner of the victim dog was identified walking and moments later running back, crying and distressed with the victim dog in her arms. The alleged attack can be heard through the audio of this footage with an unknown person screaming “Nero, no!

The Council charged Ms Giahtsidis with two breaches of the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 for attacking and wandering at large.

Decision

The matter was heard in the Magistrates Court of South Australia on 4 August 2021. Ms Giahtsidis was represented by a lawyer and pleaded guilty to one count relating to the attack. Mr Paul Kelly, for the Council, had previously provided the gathered evidence relating to the incident to Ms Giahtsidis’ solicitor, including the CCTV footage and audio obtained through the investigation process.

Mr Kelly submitted to the Court in sentencing that Ms Giahtsidis had lied to the Council on a number of occasions, denying any involvement in the attack. It was submitted that Ms Giahtsidis gave a fake alibi which was disproved through the Council’s investigation. CCTV footage obtained demonstrated that Ms Giahtsidis was not where she claimed to be at the time of the attack.

Due to the thorough investigation implemented by the Council in obtaining the evidence presented to Ms Giahtsidis’ experienced legal representative, she did not attempt to deny the attack charge.

The Council withdrew the wandering at large charge for practical reasons and Ms Giahtsidis entered a guilty plea to count two for the attack. The Court fined Ms Giahtsidis $2,299 in penalties and costs, noting the need for general deterrence of offending of this kind.

Take Home Messages

The investigation carried out for this matter was challenging. However, the diligence and thorough practices implemented by the Council enabled them to gather significant amounts of valuable evidence. Whilst the majority of the evidence gathered was considered to be circumstantial, the sheer volume of evidence ultimately led to the successful prosecution of Ms Giahtsidis.

Council’s are encouraged to implement robust investigative procedures and evidence gathering techniques from the outset of any investigation. A wide variety of tools are available to Councils in carrying out effective investigations. This case specifically demonstrated the value of simple techniques such as door-to-door statement collection and residential CCTV footage. Due diligence in obtaining and reviewing this evidence ultimately resulted in the Council’s success in prosecuting Ms Giahtsidis.

For more information about any of the information contained in this article, or for assistance in developing evidence gathering techniques, please contact Paul Kelly on +61 8 8210 1248 or pkelly@normans.com.au, Dale Mazzachi on +61 8 8210 1221 or dmazzachi@normans.com.au or Viviana Paradiso on +61 8 8210 1292 or vparadiso@normans.com.au.

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