A WOMAN who is accused of mistreating her 10 dogs could see the trial against her collapse because of concerns the animals were not seized lawfully.
Officers took the dogs from Charlotte Faulkner’s home in College Road, Hebburn, after RSPCA inspectors feared they were starving.
They were handed over to a vet who confirmed they were in poor condition and suffering from malnutrition, and ordered them to be transferred to the RSPCA’s care.
Faulkner, 47, denies four charges of animal cruelty.
But yesterday, during the second day of a trial at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Roger Elsey threw the case into doubt.
The court had heard that police seized the dogs, which included adult and puppy King Charles spaniels, German shepherds, an Afghan hound and Pyrenean mountain dogs, using Section 19 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Pace).
But the section says the dogs could only have been seized by police if they were already evidence in the case – and District Judge Elsey is concerned they might not have been until they were seen by the vet.
He said: “If the vet had examined the dogs at the house, there would be no issue about the lawfulness of the seizure.
“If there had have been a warrant to enter the house, it would also be a different matter.
“Miss Faulkner may have invited the police in, but they did not say they were there to seize the dogs, even though that was the intention.”
District Judge Elsey has now adjourned the case until May 18.
He has asked RSPCA prosecutor Alison Howie and Nigel Weller, defending, to submit their arguments for and against the case progressing before then.
He added: “If the rights of the individual and their property are going to be interfered with, it has to be in accordance with the law.
“And it may be the reality, in this case, that it unfortunately wasn’t.”
Previously, the court had heard from vet Honor Etherington that she classed all but one of the dogs to be very or severely malnourished after inspecting them.
Faulkner, who now lives in Edward Street, Craghead, County Durham, denies mistreating the animals.