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(Updated 3/7/01)

Police dog 'attack' injury claim rejected

A BURGLAR who claimed that a police dog had savaged his arm in a “sadistic” attack had his claim for damages dismissed by a court last week. In a blow for the ‘compensation culture’ gravy train, Leeds County Court ruled that the scars on the arm of Richard Dixon were “not very serious” and did not bear testimony to his claim of repeated biting by the dog, a German Shepherd named ‘Rebel’.

Dixon told the court that he was “casing” a housing estate in his home town of Wakefield, West Yorkshire in the early hours of September 11, 1997 when he was disturbed at one house and interrupted by the police dog while attempting to break into a neighbouring property.

He fled from the scene and was crouching behind a wheelie bin to avoid being detected and arrested by an investigating WPC when the three year-old dog, which has now been retired from the police service, set upon him.
Following his arrest, Dixon pleaded guilty to attempted burglary and was given 240 hours’ community service order. He began legal proceedings against West Yorkshire Police to claim damages for an assault.

Reading the statement he made at the time of the alleged attack, Dixon said: “When I got level with the front of the house I saw a police officer walking in my direction. To try and avoid being located, I hid behind a wheelie bin behind a house. I could hear a dog in the distance. I could hear the police officer shout ‘Find him, find him’. I realised I wasn’t going to be able to get away, so I stood up, held my hands to my side and said ‘I’m here’.”

Dixon’s barrister David Hall outlined the injuries his client received during the alleged minute-long attack, telling the court his client was looking to fun his heroin addiction.

Dixon had suffered multiple superficial injuries to his upper left arm and had been left with numbness down the side of his arm, along with several scars.

Questioning Dixon on the arrest, Mr Hall asked: “You stood up and faced her (the officer), showing you didn’t have a weapon. The dog, at that time, was nine feet at least away from you and she used that animal as an attack animal, setting him on you?”

Dixon replied: “Precisely, yes.”

Mr Hall: “And the dog then, as you graphically described it, sunk its teeth into your arm time after time?

Dixon: “Yeah, the scars show that.”

Mr Hall: “You fell on your knees in agony with this dog attacking you and the WPC continued to glibe instructions to the effect of: ‘Carry on, hold him, bite him,’ whatever?”

Dixon: “Yes.”

Judge Michael Lightfoot considered the evidence presented to the court but dismissed Dixon’s claim. Judge Lightfoot said: “If that dog had savagely and repeatedly bitten the claimant then I would have expected several deep incisions at the very least, not superficial bite marks and scratches.

“I am also satisfied that the holding by the dog and the biting by the dog lasted no longer than was reasonable and necessary. I have seen the scars the claimant bears.

“The operation scar is indeed an unpleasant one and directly resulting form this incident but the other scars are not clear to be seen and don’t disclose evidence of repeated biting by a dog who is savagely attacking a victim.

Dixon had also claimed that when another officer handcuffed him, the handcuffs had caused scraping around his wrists. This claim was also dismissed.