Lawyer rejects dog attack victim’s fresh evidence
"I looked away and I heard them running...once I felt the bite on my leg; I turned a little...what I do recall is seeing the brown and black dog coming up at me."
This what the Rockhampton Magistrates Court heard yesterday as 43-year-old dog attack victim Fiona Michelle Stoddart tearily gave an account of events that lead her to sustain serious facial and leg injuries after an incident involving two dogs in Gracemere on September 17, 2014.
The nurse had spent the months since recovering physically and mentally as she underwent plastic surgery and was later diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder from the attack.
Facing the court was Gracemere man Matthew Tomkins, whose dogs were identified by Rockhampton Regional Council as the animals responsible for the attack on Ms Stoddart.
As a result, Mr Tomkins was charged with two counts of failing to ensure his dogs did not attack or cause fear, but was contesting the charge based on what he believed was the misidentification of his dogs, Bindi and Chop.
In the hearing yesterday Mr Tomkins' lawyer William Prizeman put in an application to exclude the identification evidence of the complainant after she was "inconsistent" with the description of the animals involved.
Mr Prizeman said there was a risk she was an "honest but mistaken witness" after it was revealed Ms Stoddart changed her description of the dogs following a "reoccurring dream" after the incident.
Initially the victim described the dogs as one black and brown female dog with large teats and one off-white dog with coarse hair, but changed her description later on to a black and brown dog and an off-white female dog with large teats after being shown photos.
Mr Prizeman was also concerned the three photo books of potential offending dogs shown to Ms Stoddart for identification purposes was not done in a way that would eliminate prejudice against his client's animals.
The court heard the images of only one dog (Bindi) was refreshed with updated versions in the photo book during interviews with Ms Stoddart, and only Bindi, Chop and one other dog were depicted as wearing a catchpole.
The reliability of Ms Stoddart's memory was also called into question considering the traumatic nature of her experience.
Her psychologist, Bruce Acutt was called as a witness to the hearing.
He said she was shown the first two photo books too early and the final photo book too late, but said her memory in the weeks after the incident would be more reliable than information provided directly after.
Mr Ackett said after Ms Stoddart settled from the anxiety of the attack it would be easier to recall details.
He also said the strong tranquiliser she was prescribed by the hospital, Tramadol, would have affected her ability to recall accurately in the early days following the attack.
Magistrate Michael O'Driscoll did not decide on whether to allow the identification evidence through yesterday, but said he would reach his decision by the next hearing date on February 1, 2016.