Ellie Lawrenson’s grandmother acquitted of manslaughter
THE GRANDMOTHER of dog attack victim Ellie Lawrenson was acquitted of her manslaughter on Tuesday. The extraordinary decision came as a shock, especially as Simpson had earlier admitted ‘some responsibility’ for her granddaughter being mauled to death in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
The jury of seven men and five women at Liverpool Crown Court found Jacqueline Simpson, 45, innocent after a six-day trial. Simpson had pleaded Not Guilty to manslaughter caused by gross negligence.
Ellie was killed by her uncle Kiel Simpson's Pit Bull Terrier after Simpson, who had smoked 10 cannabis joints and drunk two bottles of wine, let it in from the yard.
It transpired during the trial that the dog had been tormented and beaten on a number of occasions. Simpson told the court that her son Kiel would kick and punch the animal when he was in a bad mood. One such attack took place on the fateful day I question.
Hearing the verdict, Simpson wiped tears her eyes. Speaking to the jury, the judge, Mr Justice Royce said: ‘This is an unusual case which had given rise to very strong emotions.
‘Suffice to say, the greatest sentence passed in this case is a life sentence of regret this lady has passed on herself.’
The jury heard that Simpson was also charged with possession of heroin found in her home after police searched it in the aftermath of Ellie's death. The charge was later dropped, said Neil Flewitt QC, adding that it had been deemed not to be in the public interest to pursue the charge.
The judge asked him if the Crown Prosecution Service had ever considered a prosecution against Simpson's son, Kiel Simpson, 24, for manslaughter.
He answered that officers in the investigation believed there was no realistic chance of conviction, as Kiel did not believe the dog had access to the little girl.
Referring to evidence from William Dinsdale, 70, that the pensioner had reported the Pit Bull Terrier attacking his Jack Russell in May 2006, the judge asked if police had investigated that complaint.
Mr Justice Royce said: ‘It's important for that to be investigated because if a report of an unlawful dog was ignored, it is a very unacceptable state of affairs.’
Colin Davies, Assistant District Crown Prosecutor for Merseyside, said the jury had found Ms Simpson's actions did not make her criminally responsible for Ellie's death.
‘There is no doubt - and it was accepted by the defence - that Jacqueline Simpson owed a duty of care towards her granddaughter,’ he said.
‘However, the jury by its verdict have accepted that, if there was a breach of her duty of care it was not such that it amounted to a crime.’
Following Ellie’s death, Merseyside Police enacted a ‘pit bull amnesty’ whereby owners could hand over any pit bull or pit bull ‘type’ dog and avoid prosecution. They also seized a number of dogs, most of them Staffordshire Bull Terrier crosses, which were perfectly well behaved family pets.
Many of their owners were charged under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act and taken to court in the following months and most of the dogs were spared destruction orders and placed on the Register of Exempted Dogs.
The police viewpoint was voiced by Assistant Chief Constable Helen King, who said: ‘We cannot allow Ellie Lawrenson to have died in vain.
‘I would ask our communities to support the work we are doing to help prevent a child ever being killed or even harmed in this way again.
‘Anyone who has information on where illegal dogs are being bred, who is supplying them or who is using these animals as part of their criminal lifestyles to call the police.’
Whether the authorities’ current approach in the pursuit of such dogs will ultimately be justified remains to be seen.