State slow on killer dogs

2017-01-11 06:01


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MORE than a year has passed since eight-year-old special needs child James Sinkins died from injuries he suffered when he was attacked in his garden by neighbouring dogs.

James’ parents, Estelle and Graydon, said while also dealing with their grief over the past year they have become extremely disillusioned with the criminal justice system.

Estelle Sinkins said she and and her husband Graydon found the anniversary of little James’ death on December 11 particularly hard to bear.

Another hurdle for them to cross has been the festive season, which for them serves as a painful reminder of their dreadful loss.

Estelle Sinkins, former Witness arts editor, said she had been “dreading” Christmas this year, but she and her husband were determined to try put their pain to one side and focus on a holiday “away from it all” in the New Year.

She said they have “almost” come to terms with the fact that it seems that KZN’s prosecution service is not confident “for whatever reason” to go ahead with a criminal prosecution.

“Leaving aside the possible charge of culpable homicide, what I cannot understand is that they don’t even seem to be considering pursuing a case of keeping ferocious dogs in contravention of the bylaws,” said Sinkins.

She said after their New Year break she and her husband will seek legal advice as to their rights and explore other legal avenues.

An e-mail Sinkins received from the chief prosecutor in Pietermaritzburg, advocate Nonhlanhla Dlamini, stated that her “considered view is that the state will not be able to close critical evidential gaps to secure a conviction” in connection with the attack on James.

The final decision, however, will rest with the office of the KZN Director of Public Prosecutions to whom Sinkins earlier made representations.

DPP spokesperson Natasha Kara confirmed that the chief prosecutor has “declined to prosecute due to a lack of reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution”.

“She will provide a report to the DPP who will study the report together with the case docket,” said Kara.

Sinkins forwarded an e-mail in which Dlamini states that she has considered the investigation dockets. “The question is whether the state will be able to prove the intention to murder alternatively negligence for culpable homicide in that a reasonable person would have acted differently. My considered view is that the state will not be able to close critical evidential gaps to secure a conviction in this matter,” stated Dlamini.

In August 2016 Sinkins made representations to the office of the KZN DPP after complaining about the allegedly “dismissive” attitude of a senior public prosecutor who had been assigned to deal with the case at that stage.

She alleged he told her husband he believed she [Sinkins] “would not make a good witness” and that they could not prove that their neighbour’s dogs had attacked James.

It was then that Dlamini took over the matter.

Sinkins also said the original police investigation had been found wanting, and as a result she and her husband approached the area commander of the uMgungundlovu North police cluster.

Captain Eshone Manikum thereafter obtained detailed additional statements, including those of doctors who treated James, the hospitals, SPCA staff who had fetched the dogs and were allegedly “in danger” from them, a dog trainer who had refused to work with the dogs on grounds that they were too aggressive, and forensic evidence and images.

Sinkins witnessed the attack on James, which happened in their own yard. She managed to get him away from the two dogs by “shouting and screaming” at them.

Sinkins rushed her bleeding son to Howick’s Mediclinic hospital.

He was later transferred to ICU at St Anne’s in Pietermaritzburg, where he died a day later.

Sinkins alleges they had a history of problems with the same dogs, which had allegedly also savaged their cat Pebbles to death in December 2011, and allegedly killed their elderly Labrador Bonzo in March 2014.

Attempts to contact the neighbours for comment were unsuccessful.

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