Crown is seeking 18 months in prison for Saint John man whose dogs attacked people

Michael Kirby leaves the Saint John Courthouse on Thursday.  (Roger Cosman/CBC - photo credit)

Michael Kirby leaves the Saint John Courthouse on Thursday. (Roger Cosman/CBC – photo credit)

Prosecutors are asking for at least 18 months in prison for a Saint John man whose dogs attacked four people on the Lower West Side.

Michael Edmond Kirby, 59, was found guilty of four counts of negligent assault in the summer of 2022. He was previously fined $5,000 for violations of the law related to the same attacks.

The charges stem from three separate occasions in 2018 when his dogs escaped and attacked people, including an elderly man and a 14-year-old on his way to school.

Crown prosecutor Elaina Campbell said 18 months is “still in the low range” considering other cases of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The fact that one of the victims was a child should also be seen as a reason for harsher punishment.

Defense attorney Charles Bryant is asking the judge for conditional release and parole.

“Community-based sentencing is appropriate,” he said. “The actual prison sentence is disproportionate to Mr. Kirby and the seriousness of these offences.”

Bryant said the fine, public scrutiny and stigma attached to advertising sends a message to other dog owners that there will be serious consequences if they don’t control their dogs.

Kirby was charged after five separate incidents over four days between June and December 2018. Victims ranged from a 14-year-old boy on his way to school to an elderly man walking in his Lower West Side neighborhood.

Injuries caused by the attacks range from abrasions and multiple bites to psychological trauma and suffering.

Finding him guilty in the summer of 2022, Judge Arthur Doyle said that Kirby was, and knew or should have known, until August 22, 2018, the date when he was first charged, of his dogs’ “tendencies to attack people.” , they were a danger to innocent passers-by.

On Thursday, Doyle said he plans to deliver his verdict at 2 p.m. Friday.

The judge asked Kirby if he had anything to say before delivering his verdict.

Kirby stood up and said he had been bitten by dogs several times in the past and he felt for the victims.

“I sympathize with the pain and trauma they went through. It’s not something you would ever want your dogs to do to another person,” he said.

“I take responsibility for the fact that they did that.”

Kirby’s case seems unusual. The crown, defense and judge all said they had not been able to find previous cases with similar circumstances. That means there are fewer previous decisions that Doyle can rely on when deciding his sentence.

There are cases of negligent crime involving guns, drugs, and gunpowder, but rarely, if ever, have there been such cases involving dogs. In court, Bryant said most other dog bite cases have been dealt with in provincial courts, by statute or civil lawsuits, in which people have been ordered to pay damages.

Application for stay of proceedings

Last week, Bryant filed an anti-charter lawsuit over delays in the case, saying Kirby’s charter right to a timely trial has not been respected since his first indictment in 2018. The judge denied that motion because he said the delays were beyond the Crown’s control, COVID-19 for example, or were either caused by or sanctioned by the defense.

Doyle accepted that Kirby was held for more than 24 hours before he was charged, which violates criminal procedure. Doyle said he will look into this and add a “proportionate reduction in sentences” as a remedy. He did not say how long the sentence would be reduced.

American Kennel Club

American Kennel Club

The incidents involved varying numbers of Kirby’s dogs. Two were Louisiana Catahoula leopard dogs and two were Catahoula-Labrador mixes.

According to the American Kennel Club website, the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog “needs firm leadership and early socialization because they can be independent, territorial, and protective.”

Kirby got two more dogs during the time of the attacks. When he was arrested in December 2018, he had six dogs. Five were destroyed and one was found dead at Kirby’s home when the dogs were confiscated two days after his arrest.


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