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Countess in court

PUBLISHED: 09:18 07 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:42 03 July 2010

A COUNTESS appeared in court yesterday to answer allegations that she allowed a rabbit to roam around the kitchen of the Norfolk hotel she owned.

Countess Athanasia Constantine asked district judge Philip Browning to address her just by her surname at the start of her hearing for 17 alleged breaches of food and hygiene regulations at the Fairholme Hotel in Yarmouth in January 2007.

A COUNTESS appeared in court yesterday to answer allegations that she allowed a rabbit to roam around the kitchen of the Norfolk hotel she owned.

Countess Athanasia Constantine asked district judge Philip Browning to address her just by her surname at the start of her hearing for 17 alleged breaches of food and hygiene regulations at the Fairholme Hotel in Yarmouth in January 2007.

However, despite her grand title there is no apparent evidence that she is a countess, and she refused to say where is came from.

Constantine, 39, from London, denies allowing a domestic pet to wander around the Princes Road building's kitchen during an inspection by borough council environmental health inspectors.

She has also previously pleaded not guilty to 16 other offences, including having poorly-trained or supervised staff who smoked in the kitchen and the poor state of the cooking area.

It was expected that the trial of Constantine, who was wearing a dark grey suit, would start yesterday at Yarmouth Magistrates' Court.

But the trial was put back to today after both defence and prosecution asked for one more day to prepare their cases.

However, yesterday's hearing did hear the basic facts of her defence and a brief summary of the allegations.

The rabbit, the state of the kitchen and lack of staff training were discovered in an inspection on January 9, 2007, it was said.

Both the prosecution barrister, Colm Lyons, and defence barrister, John Hardy, agreed there had been breaches.

But Constantine claims she had sub-let the hotel and that its new landlord was responsible for the kitchens.

Mr Lyons, prosecuting for the council, said: “Who was in charge at the time? That is the only issue.”

Judge Browning said: “The state of the kitchen is not in dispute.”

It is believed that the countess may be related to the Greek Royal family, which was ousted in 1972, although the Mercury was unable to find any proof to confirm that link.

Further research could not find any mention of the Countess Athanasia Constantine, and she appeared reluctant to leave the court building in case she was photographed.

When asked where her title came from, she replied: “I have been told by my solicitor not to talk to you. We will inform you after the hearing.”

The countess, who lives in Mill Hill, is being prosecuted under the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations of 2006.

Yesterday, she was bailed to appear at the court at 10am for the start of her trial, which is expected to last up to four days.


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