Head has no regret over dog-walk assault

A PUBLIC school principal who has been found guilty of beating a dog walker with his hiking stick has said he has no regrets about his actions.John Sinclair, owner and principal of the independent Finborough School, was ordered yesterday to pay a fine, compensation and prosecution costs totalling £900.

By John Howard

A PUBLIC school principal who has been found guilty of beating a dog walker with his hiking stick has said he has no regrets about his actions.

John Sinclair, owner and principal of the independent Finborough School, was ordered yesterday to pay a fine, compensation and prosecution costs totalling £900.

Sinclair, 55, of The Coach House, Great Finborough, near Stowmarket, denied the charge, was found guilty of assault by beating on September 24, last year, after hitting a fellow dog walker when their dogs clashed.


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St Edmundsbury magistrates heard yesterday that Malcolm Wyer, from Great Finborough, and his father, Michael, had been walking on a public footpath adjoining Finborough School.

They saw two Labrador dogs approaching and initially thought they were friendly until one of the animals attacked the Wyers' dog.

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Malcolm Wyer kicked one of Sinclair's dogs, claiming he was trying to separate them and to prevent any harm coming to his animal.

He alleged that Sinclair, who claimed his black Labrador had been kicked four or five times with the force of a "rugby drop kick", had then "steamed in" and hit him with a stick.

Michael Wyer told the court: "This was a frantic attack that happened very quickly. The man was demented. Blows were raining down from all directions, he was trying to hit Malcolm.

"I was absolutely shocked and stunned by what was happening. Sinclair ran up to my son with a very heavy stick raised above his head which he then smashed down on my son's head.

"He proceeded to hit my son with about six more blows to the body as my son was doing his best to protect his head." He added: "At this point my son grappled with the man and they fell to the ground with my son underneath.

"The man then tried to punch my son's head. I repeatedly shouted at the man to calm down. He showed no signs of doing so. So I took hold of him by his collar and dragged him from my son."

The court heard that Malcolm Wyer suffered bruising, swelling and chest and shoulder injuries, but had made a full recovery.

Alan Wheetman, defending, accused Michael Wyer of exaggerating to protect his son, whom he claimed had gone over the top by kicking Sinclair's dog.

Sinclair said he had found the experience frightening and felt in danger as he had been alone in a wood as dusk fell.

He admitted striking Malcolm Wyer once to distract him from hitting the dog, adding that his stick had snapped with that single blow.

Both Michael Wyer and his son declined to comment after the hearing, but Sinclair said: "It may be an old-fashioned view, but I feel I have a duty to look after those who depend on me.

"My dog depends on me absolutely and I have no regrets about defending him.

"The court accepted my dog had been attacked and they consider my reaction disproportionate. That may be their opinion, but I believe what I did was right."

Sinclair has been principal of Finborough School for about 15 years and is chairman of the East Anglia division of the Independent Schools Association (ISA), a member of its national executive committee and its financial committee.

A spokesman for the ISA said the incident had been a one-off that did not affect his role at the school or within the association.

He added that the ISA would take note of the outcome of the case, but did not expect to take any action.

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