A yoga teacher whose dog chased and fatally injured a sheep in Stanmer Park has been ordered to pay the shepherd compensation.
Hannah McClure’s one-year-old saluki Helios got into an enclosure by the Upper Lodges and bit several sheep, one so badly it had to be put down.
Fellow dog walker Michael Cass told Brighton Magistrates Court today she didn’t seem to be doing much to get the dog under control.
But she claimed he, his wife and daughter had been scaring the dog by chasing it with sticks across the enclosure, stopping her from calmly calling it away.
And she accused him of spitting at her – a claim he strongly denied, although he readily admitted yelling at her that she should be ashamed over the “disgraceful” incident.
Giving evidence from behind a screen at McClure’s request, Mr Cass said he saw the flock of 300 sheep behaving very strangely, running up and down the field, likening it to a shoal of fish being hunted by a killer whale.
He said: “Then I noticed there was a dog in the enclosure with them. At the point there wasn’t anyone with it.”
He said his wife and daughter went into the enclosure, and he then noticed there was another person higher up, walking towards the field.
“The dog was careering into the sheep, it occasionally broke off a smaller group and the dog was snapping at them.
“It did actually get hold of two or three of the sheep by their haunches but they managed to get away.”
He said he had seen McClure, saying: “I asked her if she had seen the owner and she pointed out that the dog was hers.
“I was surprised. She was not particularly concerned. She was walking and didn’t seem to have any urgency, considering her dog was snapping at the sheep.
“The sheep were clearly very panicked, I would have expected a bit more urgency.”
He said the dog had been in the enclosure for about half an hour on the morning of December 27, 2021, before his wife and daughter managed to drive it out of the gate, at which point it calmed down and McClure put it on a leash.
McClure said she had managed to call Helios to her and put the lead on before they left the enclosure.
She also said Helios got into the enclosure, which had electric netting put around it, through an open gate.
But Farmer Sam Baldock, who grazes sheep on Stanmer Park for Brighton and Hove City Council, said the metal gates were self closing, and had been checked on the morning of the attack and afterwards, and found to be working on both occasions.
He said he had arrived after McClure had left, and found one ewe in a bad way. He said: “The sheep was on the verge of death with substantial wounds and blood all over it.
“Most of its jaw and cheek had been removed, it had wounds to its throat and quite a large chunk missing from its forelegs.”
PC Giancarlo Leone, who interviewed McClure, said he had considered a community resolution, but had told her this could not be offered to her as she insisted Helios was not to blame for the injuries to the sheep.
He also showed the court letters she had sent to him, demanding Sussex Police pay for her early legal representation.
She was represented by lawyers at her first three hearings at Brighton Magistrates Court, but today was representing herself.
Giving evidence, she said Helios had been trained to respond to calm instructions, which she had been issuing while he was in the field with the sheep.
She also said she had offered a remedy to the shepherd out of kindness.
She said: “Being a responsible dog owner I did leave my phone number for the shepherd.
“Due to the interference of the man, I’m not guilty. Circumstances were out of my control.
“While I could control my dog, I could not control the man.”
She added: “I ask the court to compensate me for my expense and time.”
At the beginning of the hearing, McClure refused to confirm her full name, saying: “I am here as myself, a woman, I’m Hannah and that’s it.”
When asked to confirm her date of birth, she said: “That’s the day this body this woman was born.”
The legal advisor said: “It may be you have read some things on the internet. I can tell from the language that you are using that some of those thing may not be true.
“This trial will proceed. We are a legitimate court.” However, in recognition of her refusal to confirm her last name, McClure was referred to as Miss Hannah throughout the proceedings.
After a full day’s hearing, the bench found McClure guilty of owning a dog worrying livestock.
Presiding magistrate Naomi Phillipson said said they found evidence given by Mr Cass and Mr Baldock compelling and credible.
She also said the dog had been worrying the sheep before the Cass family entered the enclosure, so they could not be blamed for its behaviour.
Ms Phllipson said: “We do find the case has been properly brought and we are not satisfied that there was any ulterior motive by the police in bringing this case.
“You said you are a responsible dog owner. We don’t accept your evidence that the dog was under your control on this occasion when the dog ran off lead into the sheep enclosure through an open gate.”
She said that in view of McClure’s remorse and previous offer to pay compensation, no fine would be imposed, but instead a £139 compensation order.
But she said McClure would have to pay a £500 contribution to the prosecution’s costs.