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Three-legged staffie on attack charge

A THREE-LEGGED Staffordshire Bull terrier was charged under Section 3 of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act for an alleged attack on a cyclist, despite the fact that the cyclist had given no indication of any trauma.

Barney, the Staffie in question came into Mrs Nicola Clemmitt’s life eight years ago when she was driving along the M40 and saw a white dog being thrown out of a car ahead of her. She stopped and wrapped the badly injured dog in a blanket and drove to the RSPCA Animal Hospital in Putney, south west London, where the dog was operated upon and had his damaged front leg removed. Despite his chances being rated by the vet as only 50/50 at best, the dog pulled through. Mrs Clemmitt adopted him and named him Barney. At the time, the vet estimated Barney’s age to be between eight months and one year.

Mrs Clemmitt describes Barney as a much loved family pet, very loyal and very much a “fun dog”. Despite Barney’s tragic background, he has always been totally trustworthy, never displayed any aggression towards anybody nor given any indication of trouble.

On November 10th 2001, Mrs Clemmitt was walking Barney along a public footpath in a wooded area near her Loughborough home. It was 4.30pm and very dark as they approached a blind corner. A cyclist, with no lights on her bike suddenly approached at the corner, startling Mrs Clemmitt and her dog. Barney grabbed the cyclist’s foot.

Mrs Clemmitt asked the cyclist, who identified herself as Rebecca Perry, if she was OK and spent a little time chatting. Miss Perry gave no indication of any injury or intention to pursue the matter further and cycled off.

Much to Mrs Clemmitt’s surprise a week or so later, an article appeared in the local newspaper, with Miss Perry saying she had been attacked by a dog, giving a description of Mrs Clemmitt and Barney (a three legged dog), seeking information as to their whereabouts. Mrs Clemmitt was flabbergasted and attended the local police station with her husband to clear the matter up. Apparently Miss Perry alleged she had been injured by Barney - a bruise to her foot - and claimed that she was now too frightened to cycle. Mrs Clemmitt was duly charged under Section 3 of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act for “allowing her dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place.”


She contacted the Fury Defence Fund and, upon their advice, engaged well-known DDA defence solicitor Trevor Cooper to act for her.

The case came to court reasonably swiftly on Friday, January 18th at Loughborough Magistrates’ Court. As the matter was such a minor incident, a deal was struck between defence and prosecution in court whereby the DDA charge was reduced to the less draconian 1871 Dogs Act. Mrs Clemmitt entered a ‘guilty’ plea.

Both counsels outlined their case, with Trevor Cooper adding several letters in favour of Barney in defence, along with photographs of the dog. The Bench deliberated for approximately five minutes. Whilst looking through the copies of the letters and photographs, the female prosecutor burst into tears. Mrs Clemmitt gave her a handkerchief and the Prosecutor apologised.

The Bench returned and gave their decision. They imposed a Control Order upon Barney with no stipulations whatsoever. They made no order for compensation to Miss Perry.

Mrs Clemmitt was delighted at the outcome and thanked Trevor Cooper and the Fury Defence Fund for its help.

l The fact that the magistrates imposed a Control Order without stipulations clearly indicates their opinion of the veracity of Rebecca Perry’s claim, which was most likely rooted in a desire to gain compensation for her alleged “injury”.

Such a verdict is the legal equivalent of a light tap on the wrist and a warning to be careful in future; Nicola Clemmitt and Barney have no stain on their characters whatsoever.

There is one point which should, perhaps, be borne in mind. Although it may not be “cool” or display “street cred” to do so nowadays, but it is still illegal to cycle in public without lights when it is dark. It would seem that the real fault then lies with Miss Perry’s flouting of the law.