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Condemned dog’s appeal under way


A Bull Terrier facing destruction after the Appeal Court upheld a destruction order imposed on the dog for biting a child is now the subject of a further appeal to the House of Lords.

As reported previously, "Rickson" is a two year-old Bull terrier, owned by Elizabeth Holland of Norris Green, Liverpool. Mrs Holland has eight grandchildren, all of whom have played happily with Rickson with no fear of attack. Mrs Holland, 63, is an experienced dog owner, having owned many dogs – mainly rescues – over the years, and would never take chances where children and dogs are concerned.

There had been various disputes between Mrs Holland and the Ambrose family next door, including several disputes over fencing dividing the two properties. Mrs Holland described the Ambrose family as "neighbours from hell" and alleges that they were responsible for the break in the fencing which enabled Rickson to wander into their garden on March 4th 2001, when eight year-old Kathryn Ambrose was playing in the back garden, being there to visit her grandparents.

It is alleged that the dog grabbed Kathryn’s ankle and lunged for her leg and chest. The child received treatment at hospital for a four-inch wound to her knee and is now scarred for life.
According to evidenced submitted in the subsequent court hearing, the child now has a phobia about dogs.

Police investigated the incident and Mrs Holland was subsequently charged under Section 3 of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, and Rickson was seized and taken to council kennels.

Mrs Holland pleaded guilty on the advice of her solicitor at Liverpool Crown Court last November, and was fined £250 with £250 costs, by the magistrates, who also imposed a destruction order on the dog and a ten year ban from owning dogs on Mrs Holland.

Shortly afterwards, Mrs Holland made contact with the Fury Defence Fund who advised her to contact solicitor Trevor Cooper immediately. Mrs Holland had, in the meantime, lodged her own appeal. Legal Aid was granted, but only for the services of a Barrister, not a Solicitor.

Mr Cooper’s work was free of charge. Mr Cooper then instructed barrister Pamela Rose, who has extensive experience in presenting DDA defence cases.

The Appeal against the sentence was heard at the Court of Appeal in London’s High Court on Tuesday, June 18th, 2002, before Lord Justice Kennedy, Mr Justice Pitchford and His Hon. Judge Rant.

The Justices heard the evidence then retired for a brief adjournment before dismissing the appeal, however, was dismissed, thus allowing the destruction order against Rickson to stand.

Mrs Holland had sought to appeal to the House of Lords against the Appeal Court decision, and had, with the help of Mr Cooper and the FDF, been gathering evidence to present her case to the Appeals Committee.

However, the paperwork took a long time to organise and the appointed time for Rickson’s destruction – 21 days after the court hearing – drew near. This time was due to elapse on July 18th, although John Dixon, Line Manager at the council dog kennels where Rickson was being held waited a day to seek clarification from the Crown Prosecution Service to proceed with the destruction.

Appeal

Mrs Holland frantically faxed all the relevant appeal paperwork to the kennels last Friday morning as proof that her appeal was ongoing, and telephoned to advise the staff that this was underway.

Juliette Glass of the Fury Defence immediately contacted Nick Mays, OUR DOGS Chief Reporter and told him of Mrs Holland’s plight. Mays made contact with John Dixon, Line Manager at the kennels who located Mrs Holland’s fax and, in turn, contacted the CPS to tell them that the appeal had been lodged and Rickson was not to be destroyed.

Since then, Rickson has continued to be held at the council kennels whilst the appeal has been formally lodged.

Last week, a film crew from and independent television production company visited Mrs Holland to interview her for a programme they are making on the case. Mrs Holland was joined by Janet Payne, a leading official of the Fury Defence Fund and long-time anti-DDA and BSL campaigner.

Ms Payne attempted to secure more information on the dog’s plight and to substantiate allegations made by Mrs Holland that the initial police investigation fell short of the usual professional standards and, indeed, legal requirements for a DDA case.

“I attempted to speak to PC Wheeler, who is handling Rickson’s case," said Janet Payne, talking exclusively to OUR DOGS. "However, I was totally unprepared for the aggressive tone which PC Wheeler adopted whilst talking to me.

“Under extreme duress I attempted to remain calm and polite, saying I’d already apologised for the circumstances leading to my call, but I wasn’t to know it was a personal mobile and not a generic number, and to reassure her that I would not pass it on to Mrs Holland.

“She continued, ‘that dog’s destruction was due to go ahead and I want to know what’s happening with the case now.’ I explained that wasn’t my remit, but avenues are being explored with a view to getting back into Court or the House of Lords, or failing that, on to the European Court, but my role at this juncture is to liaise to obtain a visit with the dog.

She replied, ‘well, I’m not prepared to allow it’ (There were numerous times she used the words, ‘I’m not prepared to…’ during the call) She went on to say that if a visit was organised Mrs Holland could ‘look at the dog in the kennel, he won’t be let out. I will not allow any direct contact.’”

Janet Payne has since lodged a formal complaint to PC Wheeler’s superiors. “I just couldn’t believe how aggressive and ill-informed she was,” continued Ms Payne. “If nothing else, it’s not a very professional way of dealing with a member of the public who was merely seeking clarification on an ongoing case.

"The most important thing in all of this matter is, of course, Rickson, so let’s hope that his appeal is successful and that his owner is at least afforded the courtesy of seeing her dog, whether or not an individual police officer is happy about it!"

OUR DOGS attempted to speak to PC Wheeler about the case and the official complaint on Monday of this week, but she declined to comment. She stated that the police press office were not aware of the matter so would be of no help either.