A government officer said last year that the Lamma Island area where a jogger says he was bitten by a pack of strays belonging to Hong Kong Dog Rescue founder Sally Andersen was not intended for public access or use, a court heard yesterday.
The officer was speaking at Andersen's trial in Eastern Court.
Andersen, 59, has been accused of contravening the Rabies Ordinance after a jogger was surrounded by a pack of dogs and bitten in the Lamma Island quarry area. She has pleaded not guilty to having dogs that were not leashed, or under control, and bit someone in a public place, contrary to section 25 of the ordinance.
An issue in the case is whether the location where the incident occurred was a public place.
Ho Ka-keung, an estate surveyor from the District Lands Office called by Andersen's legal team, agreed yesterday that he had said in an e-mail last April that the area was not intended for public use or access, including for fishing, hiking or walking dogs. Had someone asked to go into the area for such activities, the department would not have granted permission, he said.
Ho was speaking under questioning by Andersen's lawyer, Daniel Marash SC. The area was leased to the Young Men's Christian Association in May this year, Ho said. The e-mail had been sent in response to a person who had objected to the YMCA's tenancy.
However, when cross-examined by prosecutor Neil Mitchell on whether the public could access the area, he said: 'If they want to walk to the site, they can.' Members of the public did walk on government land of the same type as the area in the case, he said.
The Lamma Island quarry operated from 1978 to 1995, and was then allocated to the Civil Engineering Department. In 2003 it was handed over to the District Lands Office and the YMCA began a three-year tenancy earlier this year.
According to the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance, 'public place' means any public street, pier, or garden, and any theatre, place of public entertainment, or other place of general resort, admission to which is obtained by payment or to which the public have or are permitted to have access.
Earlier in the trial, Mitch MacDonald spoke of encountering 20 to 25 dogs during one of his regular runs in the area on October 6 last year. He said the dogs surrounded him and bit him, but he could not identify which dogs had bitten him.
The court earlier heard that Andersen regularly took in stray dogs from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. An estimated 5,000 dogs have been registered under her name over the years.
Ho was the last witness to testify in the trial. Deputy Special Magistrate Stephen Yeung Shu-bun adjourned the case until November 30 when Marash and Mitchell are scheduled to make their closing submissions.