Ellie Lawrenson’s uncle jailed
THE UNCLE of Ellie Lawrenson, the five-year-old girl mauled to death by an American Pit Bull Terrier, was jailed last week for owning the dog illegally under the terms of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.
Kiel Simpson, 24, showed no emotion as he was led away from Liverpool Magistrates' Court to begin his eight-week sentence.
Ellie died when Simpson's dog, Reuben, was allowed into her grandmother's home in St Helen’s, Merseyside, in the early hours of New Year's Day as it was allegedly afraid of fireworks going off at the time.
The one-year-old dog attacked Ellie, biting her in the throat. She was beyond help by the time her grandmother, Jackie Simpson, 46, was able to beat the animal off. It was later shot dead by a police marksman.
It has since emerged that two months before the fatal assault on Ellie the Pit Bull bought as a puppy for £400, had attacked Simpson's sister, Kelsey, 19, biting her in her thigh.
An animal pathologist who examined it described it as one of the finest, leanest examples of the breed he had seen, while a dog expert with the Metropolitan Police said it had immeasurable bite, strength and shake.
Simpson, already a convicted drugs dealer, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing last month to owning a dog banned by the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. Simpson's defence counsel said that his client wanted to ‘crawl into a hole’ following his niece's death.
It was said Simspon, who joined Ellie's father Darren Lawrenson, as one on the pallbearers at the youngster's funeral, felt ‘morally responsible’ for what had happened.
Magistrates heard that Simpson had decided to get rid of the dog after it bit his sister Kelsey last autumn.
However, he had been unable to find owners for the one-year-old animal, which he had bought for £400, and did not want it to be put down.
Passing sentence, District Judge Alan Jones told him Simpson did not accept his mitigation that he had instructed his family to leave the animal outside, nor did he accept the claim that he had been given ‘official advice’ that he could keep the dog.
Judge Jones said: ‘I don't accept that a police officer or any person giving advice would have said it was enough to keep the dog muzzled and on a lead in public if you properly told them what type of dog it was.
‘Any court will have experience of dogs like these being used in connection with criminal offences such as drugs trafficking.
‘You must have known this as well, since you have a serious conviction for drugs trafficking. Of all people, you in particular should not have had this dog.’
Judge Jones went on: ‘This is a dog of a type nobody has been allowed to possess for the last 15 years, and for good reason. They are capable of inflicting serious injuries to any able-bodied person.
‘That a young child suffered such a tragic attack was something which was foreseeable, particularly because the dog was especially fit and had already behaved aggressively to another member of the family.
‘It is not enough to absolve you of responsibility that you left the dog with instructions that it should not be left inside the house.’
Judge Jones also banned Simpson from owning a dog for five years. The sentence as a whole attracted widespread criticism for its leniency, with many people saying that Simpson should have been jailed for longer and banned from owning any dog for life.
In the wake of Ellie's death in January, police confirmed they had twice written to Simpson last summer following complaints about the dog.
One of the complaints related to an attack on another dog and the other was about it barking.
Mrs Simpson, who suffered bite wounds to her arms as she tried to pull the animal away from her granddaughter, is awaiting trial on a charge of manslaughter. Her case is expected to be heard at Liverpool Crown Court in September.