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Over-reaction in DDA seizure case

A LAW-ABIDING family were subjected to a terrifying ordeal when police seized their crossbreed dog as an illegal pit bull ‘type’ under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act and arrested the family’s two grown-up children on the grounds that they did not believe their explanation as to who owned the dog.

Mrs Veena Majothi lives in Hayes Middlesex, with her children, Selina (21) and Raheem (18). The family own an 18 month-old Stafford/Mastiff cross bitch named ‘Tyra’ and a Bull Terrier named ‘Shico’, whom they rescued from previous owners who were treating her badly. Mrs Majothi is employed in an important position in a local security firm and the family are described as totally respectable and have had no previous problems with the law.

The family’s ordeal began in February this year when, after what is believed to be an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers, several police officers turned up at the family home and seized Tyra as a suspected illegal pit bull terrier. The family were terrified and tried to explain to the officers that Tyra was a crossbreed and had a lovely temperament. The officers waved aside their protests and insisted that Raheem, who is dyslexic and has a speech impediment accompany them to Uxbridge police station. There, without the offer of legal representation or assistance of any kind, Raheem was told to sign a document, not knowing what he was signing and not protesting, as he was so frightened. He was fingerprinted, had his DNA taken and was photographed. The family were then told by telephone that they would be charged under Section 1 of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.

At this stage, Selina telephoned the DDA help organisation the Fury Defence Fund and, sobbing uncontrollably, told founder Juliette Glass of the situation. Mrs Glass advised Selina to telephone the police station and explain that her brother was dyslexic and unable to understand what he was signing. Whilst Selina did this, Mrs Glass contacted the offices of behaviourist Dr Roger Mugford. His PA immediately telephoned the police station to also explain the situation. Raheem was later released.

The FDF advised Selina to engage local solicitor George Keppe of local firm Keppe Shaw, who were familiar with DDA law and would take on clients under Legal Aid.

Mrs Glass advised, helped and supported the family throughout the intervening weeks, having lengthy conversations with both Mrs Majothi and Selina.

On March 9th, the police ordered Selina and Raheem to attend the local police station. But for some reason as yet unexplained, Selina was told to attend West Drayton police station whilst Raheem was told to attend at Uxbridge police station. Incredibly, on the way to West Drayton Selina was stopped by police officers, arrested and held in custody for several hours. Selina said that the police officers did not believe her story that Tyra was her brother’s dog and that she herself should not be charged. Both she and her brother were charged under Section 1 of the DDA, but before the case came to court, the charges against Selina were dropped.

Again, no explanation has been forthcoming from Middlesex police as to their actions in the case.
In the following weeks, Keppe Shaw engaged Dr Roger Mugford as an expert witness and he duly examined Tyra at his farm, where police brought her. Dr Mugford’s report was given in evidence at the subsequent trial. He concluded that Tyra was a ‘particularly friendly dog amongst people. and other dogs’. He added that she was closer in physical appearance to being the ‘type’ of dog known as the Pit Bull Terrier.

After some initial hearings, the case was formally heard at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on May 18th. George Keppe represented Raheem Majothi. The bench, consisting of two female magistrates and one male magistrate admitted that they had never dealt with a DDA case before. Rather worryingly and very leadingly, the Clerk of the Court put it to the Bench that the dog in question was ‘the same type of dog that killed the child in Liverpool’ – in a reference to the Ellie Lawrenson case – and constantly referred to ‘dangerous dogs’.

After hearing the evidence, the Bench ruled that Tyra was of the pit bull ‘type’, but represented no danger to the public and so could be placed on the Index of Exempted Dogs, provided that Raheem met the law’s requirements, i.e. having her neutered, tattooed and microchipped, insured and ensuring that she was muzzled and leashed in public. He was ordered to pay £549 in fines and costs and given 28 days to pay.

An overjoyed Mrs Majothi telephoned Juliette Glass after the hearing to give her the good news and profusely thanked Juliette and her husband John for all their help and support. She later contacted Mrs Grant at the Index of Exempted Dogs and reported that Mrs Grant had been ‘fantastically helpful’ in ensuring that Tyra was properly registered before being returned to the family.

However, Raheem has been severely depressed and has not worked since Tyra was seized, so the whole experience has cast a long shadow over the family.

Juliette Glass told OUR DOGS: ‘We are shocked that this totally respectable family have been treated in such a fashion and that such hefty costs and fine were imposed in a respectable, kind young man who is not working and, with his health problems, has enough to contend with. The Fury Defence Fund will be making a substantial donation towards paying the costs and fine. We will be staying in touch with the family and hope to see Tyra upon her release.’