An award-winning newspaper columnist was right to be terrified when he kicked a dog that had chased him into a pharmacy warehouse, a magistrate has found.
Australian Financial Review journalist Aaron Patrick fought for almost two years to clear his name after being accused of committing an act of animal cruelty.
Patrick has always denied harming the dog Rosie, described as a pit bull or Staffordshire bull terrier, and was acquitted in Sydney’s Downing Town Center Local Court on Monday.
Police had alleged that Patrick elbowed Rosie in the ribs with his shin and then kicked her in the face in Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, shortly after 6:00pm on 27 November 2021.
Patrick was then chased by the dog’s owner, Surry Hills tattoo artist Caleb Harrower, and another man across Riley Street to the Chemist Warehouse, where he spun and swung his right leg at Rosie.
Award-winning newspaper columnist Aaron Patrick (above) was right to be terrified when he kicked a dog that had chased him into a chemical warehouse, a magistrate has found.
The 52-year-old man took the witness stand Monday to give his side of events after Harrower told police he was in New York and could not appear in court.
Patrick said he was eating a kebab while strolling down Oxford Street when he ran into Harrower and his friends Yanick George and Ines English.
“While I was walking I came across a dog pulling on a leash,” he said. As Patrick was walking between Rosie and a wall, he made “casual contact” with the dog.
“A man came up to me and other people stood near me,” Patrick said. The man spoke to me. He said words to the effect of ‘Get away from my dog, motherfucker’.”
Patrick said he was surrounded by Harrower and his group when the dog’s owner took a step closer to him.
“I got scared and thought that this man and his dog might be about to attack me,” she said. ‘Instinctively I tried to scare the dog away with my right leg. The man tried to hit me.
Patrick said he didn’t contact Rosie before he crossed Riley Street with Mr Harrower and Mr George in pursuit.
“I was caught running and my glasses fell out of my pocket,” he said. I ran to a pharmacy for safety.
Patrick has always denied harming the dog Rosie, described as a pit bull or Staffordshire bull terrier, and was acquitted in Sydney’s Downing Town Center Local Court on Monday. Rosie is in the photo
When asked how he was feeling at the time by his lawyer, Maurice Neil KC, Patrick said ‘terrified’.
“I was attacked for no reason by a man and a dog,” he said. The dog chased me down the street with the man. He worried me that he would bite me.
Patrick ran into the Chemical Warehouse where he said Mr Harrower tried to block his exit and Rosie remained ‘threatening’.
“He had advanced on me and had a very angry look on his face,” Patrick said. “I was worried that he would continue to assault me.”
Patrick kicked out with his right leg at Rosie but again said he didn’t make contact. “I yelled, ‘Call the police, call the police,'” she said. “Eventually I was able to get out of the pharmacy.”
CCTV footage presented in court did not show Patrick contacting Rosie on any of the three occasions police alleged, but he did tell police that he kicked the animal.
Body camera footage from Patrick’s arrest showed Patrick telling lead officer Mathew Clarkson what had happened with Rosie.
“It was a big dog and I was afraid of what the dog was going to do to me, so I kicked it to try and get it off me,” he told the officer.
“But it was in self defense because I feared for my safety.”
Patrick took the witness stand Monday to give his side of events after Rosie’s owner, Caleb Harrower, told police he was in New York and could not appear in court.
Patrick said that while Rosie was tied up, she was not under the control of Mr Harrower, who he claimed had tried to hit him.
“If you’re going to charge me with animal cruelty, I think it’s only fair that I charge you with assault,” she told Police Chief Clarkson.
Lead Constable Clarkson told Patrick, “I’d probably try to punch you in the face too if you kicked my dog.”
Before being arrested, Patrick said: “I don’t have weapons and I don’t use drugs.”
‘Are you seriously going to handcuff me for kicking a dog?’ Patrick asked Chief Constable Clarkson, who did exactly that and took him to the Surry Hills Police Station.
On Monday, Patrick confirmed that he had never been arrested or convicted of any crime before.
Mr. Neil: ‘Do you present yourself in court as an honest man of good character?’
Patrick: ‘Yes, I want to’.
Under cross-examination by the police prosecutor, Sergeant Jas Poonia, Patrick denied kicking Rosie, who the court found was not injured during their encounters.
Patrick also rejected Sergeant Poonia’s suggestion that he had told Mr Harrower, “I’ll do it again” after having made “chance contact” with Rosie.
He was not sure at what precise point he came to fear Rosie and at one point told the court, “I don’t know what was on the dog’s mind.”
Australian Financial Review journalist Aaron Patrick feared for his safety when he lunged with his leg at a dog at this Chemist Warehouse in Darlinghurst city centre.
Several times, when questioned, Patrick said ‘I’m not going to answer yes or that I know’ and ‘I don’t agree with the proposition you are making me’.
In his final submissions, Mr. Neil said his client was “minding his own business…eating an early dinner” when “totally unexpected events occurred.”
“It’s quite a scary scene of two men chasing another man,” Mr Neil said. ‘One at least chattering to him and the dog looking towards Mr. Patrick.’
He is scared, confused. The situation has taken him totally by surprise. He was terrified.
Neil said that the police had not shown that Patrick’s actions were unreasonable, unnecessary or unjustifiable in what he called “this regrettable saga”.
‘What would explain why he would deliberately go out of his way by attacking a dog in the street for no reason?’ she asked.
Magistrate Rana Daher accepted Patrick’s version of events in dismissing the charge.
“It is clear from the CCTV that the defendant was afraid,” he said. Two men were chasing him, one of them with a dog.
Patrick is listed as the ‘senior correspondent’ for AFR, where he writes about politics and business from the paper’s Sydney newsroom.
He has previously written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and began his journalism career at the Melbourne Herald-Sun.
In addition to writing for the Nine newspaper, Patrick also wrote the book ‘Ego: Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party’s Civil War’, which was published last year.
He has also published on the previous Morrison government, the fall of the Labor Party after the Rudd-Gillard era, and the collapse of the Tony Abbott government.