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Legal precedent prompts freedom for DDA dog

A DOG held for four years under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act as a pit bull ‘type’ is set to be freed after a dramatic High Court ruling which has set a legal precedent on the interpretation of the Act.

The dog, named ‘Tyson’ owned by Faye Ashman was acknowledged throughout by the Prosecuting Authorities as having a particularly friendly disposition, ‘but was none the less convicted, having being found unmuzzled in a public place, contrary to the terms of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.

The previously ‘Legal’, fully Registered family pet has been unaware of the battle to save him that was unleashed whilst he languished for four long years at the taxpayer’s expense.
Throughout this protracted ordeal the dog’s cause was championed by John and Juliette Glass of the Fury Defence Fund, the anti-DDA organisation which they set up in the wake of all the anguish and suffering of just such cases.

Tyson’s long legal bid for release included hearings in June and July 2004 at West London magistrates’ Court where he was found ‘guilty. This was followed by an appeal to Blackfriars Crown Court in October 2004, where the judgement was upheld. On June 29th 2005 an application for a Judicial Review was made to the High court, but this was ultimately rejected.
However, in August 2005, the FDF were instrumental in getting the case being put before Criminal Cases Review Commission under the terms of an Application for Review of Sentence.
The referral was finally heard at Blackfriars Crown Court (again) on October 18th 2007, where the legal challenge was finally successful. This was the first Section One DDA case to be considered by the CRCC.

The remit of the case was to challenge the previous ruling, disallowing change of ‘keepership’ of the dog. The terms of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act prevent the registered owner of a Pit Bull Terrier subsequently re-homing, or offering their dog to another party, should they find themselves unable to care for it, yet conversely the letter of the law does not specifically exclude change of keepership. Indeed the requisite documents have a section for both the name and address of the owner as well as the name and address of the keeper, if different to that of the owner. Mr and Mrs Glass sought to become Tyson’s new registered keepers, as his owner was unable to keep him.

Sitting at Blackfriars Crown Court on October 18, His Honour, Judge Blacksell was in agreement with the findings of the Commission, when he echoed that ‘John and Juliette Glass are of exemplary character and that Tyson would present no danger to the public if handed into their care’.

His previous owner, Ms Ashman had shown she was unable to be responsible for his upkeep, and admitted as much. But she said that she loved Tyson and was willing to do anything to save his life.

Judge Blacksell commented numerous times throughout the case on the unfairness of the law and, in conclusion, wished Tyson a happy life with Mr and Mrs Glass in Devon, where they live.
Janet Payne, Media Spokesperson for the FDF commented: ‘That wish is about to come to fruition. Now the updating of his Insurance and Registration paperwork has been completed, he can look forward to opening Christmas presents, and spending what remains of the twilight of his life in the bosom of a loving family!

‘The tragedy is that there are many dogs like Tyson, thrown into grim, dank and uncaring kennels for months, if not years. They do not deserve to be treated so cruelly. Their loving owners don’t deserve the heartache. The taxpayer would rather have their money spent on cleaning up our hospitals or making our streets safer to walk in, not on persecuting people’ pets!

‘The costs run into millions of pounds! This cannot be justified - certainly not under the spurious guise of ‘protecting the public’ from ‘dangerous dogs’. MRSA is out of control, crime is out of control. With very rare exceptions, dogs are not dangerous or out of control.’

In Tyson’s case, the four years he spent locked up equates to 28 years in human terms, whilst his crime did not involve aggressive behaviour. In Court the kennel fees alone were stated as being an astronomical £21,000. This figure does not take into account the Court costs, legal fees, and sundry expenses.

Ms Payne continues: ‘As Tyson’s previous owner, Faye Ashman, so astutely pointed out during her outburst at the Judge after his conviction in 2003, ‘You let paedophiles go free, but not my innocent dog’. This time she had cause to celebrate and she couldn’t help herself but to deliver a more humble, though equally appropriate pronouncement, as she shouted across the Court when she declared her thanks to Judge Blacksell for sparing her dogs life. It was noted that he gave her a warm smile in response, revealing he must have known this was one job well done.’

There was an unexpected development in the case earlier this week. Just as OUR DOGS was due to go to press, Juilette Glass reported that Tyson’s happy homecoming has run into problems and had been delayed. DEFRA, who are responsible for the administration of the DDA were considering appealing the Court’s decision via a further Judicial Review, presumably because the case presents an unforeseen precedent on the rehoming of dogs covered by the DDA. Until a decision has been made on whether to proceed – expected sometime this week – Tyson remains incarcerated.

Juliette Glass commented: ‘Tyson is not a threat to anybody. His previous owner acknowledged that he was a pit bull ‘type’ and had him registered. His only ‘crime’ was being unmuzzled in a public place and for this has spent four years of his life in custody. A careful, considered ruling was given by Judge Blacksell, which was in the best interests of the dog and also, in the long run, will save the State money. But now DEFRA are seeking to move the goalposts because they don’t like the ruling, and in so doing, an innocent dog languishes in kennels. We had his new basket, blanket, toys and food all ready for him. Now they just need Tyson to be here to use them.’

It is hoped that commonsense prevails, even if it is purely on financial grounds and it is found that the cost of a further judicial review does not justify the cost to the public purse, and that Tyson will be living in his new home this Christmas.