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Lacey: peace at last

LACEY, a white Staffordshire Bull Terrier-cross seized by police in 1993 as an illegal, unregistered pit bull ‘type’ dog was held in solitary confinement at secret kennels for just under nine years until passed away on February 24th this year.

This is a total of 3,252 days, the longest period any dog has been incarcerated under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. Lacey’s only ‘crime’ is that a police officer decided that she resembled a Pit Bull Terrier. Under the terms of the DDA, all pit bull ‘type’ dogs must be registered or they will be deemed illegal.

Lacey was owned by Spanish-born artist Montserrat ‘Monste’ Christian, who, in March 1993 was undergoing a divorce from her British-born husband, Clem. Montse was living elsewhere, whilst her dogs, Lacey and Maite, were being looked after by Clem.

Knocking

Lacey’s ordeal began on March 30th 1993. At 11.30pm that evening, when her husband answered a loud knocking at the door to be confronted by several police officers in body armour and at least one RSPCA Inspector who informed him that they had come to seize two unregistered Pit Bull Terriers known to be on the premises. They duly seized both dogs and took them to secret kennels. As their owner, Montse was eventually charged under Section 1 of the DDA. Maite was returned to Monste without charge.


Montse Christian with Lacey at a brief tearful reunion.

In May 1994, the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued proceedings, but the police re-seized the dog under Section 5(4) of the DDA (now Section 4(b)). This section was originally intended for use in cases where the ownership of a pit bull could not be proven. This necessitates the owner taking the police to court for the return of their dog but becomes a civil, rather than criminal, hearing and, as such, not subject to assistance under legal aid.

Early last year, Juliette Glass of the Fury Defence Fund took over responsibility for Montse’s legal dealings in respect of Lacey, although a legal resolution was still sought via Ann Harpwood of the charity Justice For Dogs. Sadly, the outcome of Lacey’s latest bid for freedom was cut short when she passed away, peacefully, on February 24th this year.

Juliette Glass commented: “The death of Lacey is very, very tragic. I’m 100% convinced that Ann Harpwood of Justice For Dogs would have secured her release at the same time as Gary Dunne’s dog Judd was released, soon after the DDA was amended, had it not been for the interference of others.

“This dog spent an added four years in custody which simply should not have occurred. Personally, I am devastated.”

Release

Ann Harpwood told OUR DOGS “In October, Justice For Dogs was apporached by Juliette Glass of the Fury Fighting Fund asking whether there was anything we could do to help gain the release of Lacey as well as Judd (belonging to Garry Dunne), and Buster (belonging to Sandra Rowlands). All dogs had been held for some considerable time and all efforts to gain their release back to their owners had failed.

In May last year, Juliette contacted me again to say that Lacey’s owner had now left the country. She said that if anything could be done to get her released, she would be willing to give her a home and look after her for what was left of her life.

I discussed the matter at great length with Juliette and eventually we all agreed that in view of Lacey’s poor health, it might be in her best interests to leave in the care of the kennel owner rather than uproot her at this late stage and possibly run the risk of causing her further distress. I advised Ms Woodley at the Home Office of the decision.

It was with great sadness that on Saturday, March 30th 2002, I received a letter from New Scotland Yard which read as follows:-

Further to previous correspondence concerning Lacey, I am writing to inform you that Lacey died peacefully in her sleep from heart failure on Sunday, 24th February 2002.

I know that you took an active interest in the welfare of Lacey and considered it appropriate to let you know.

Yours sincerely,
Roy Masini”

Motse Christian was unavailable for comment but was
said to be “saddened” by Lacey’s death.