It should’ve been put down for pre­vi­ous at­tacks

The Chronicle - - Front Page - By ROB KENNEDY rob.kennedy@ncj­me­dia.com Court Re­porter

EX­ACTLY why a woman still had a dan­ger­ous dog which in­jured 12 chil­dren in a play park at­tack re­mains un­clear.

Claire Neal’s Stafford­shire Bull Ter­rier Mar­ley, mauled young­sters in Blyth in terrifying scenes.

But the dog was al­ready sub­ject to a de­struc­tion order hav­ing at­tacked young­sters be­fore but Neal, for some rea­son, still had it.

Last night, a po­lice spokesper­son was un­able to ex­plain ex­acty why Neal still had the dog. They said: “A de­struc­tion order was is­sued by the court to the owner of this dog fol­low­ing an ear­lier in­ci­dent.

“Once this order was is­sued it was the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the owner to hand the dog over for de­struc­tion at the ear­li­est op­por­tu­nity.

“On this oc­ca­sion it was for the court, not the po­lice, to en­force that order when the owner did not com­ply.”

Neal and Leanne Pat­ter­son were due to stand trial over the at­tack but af­ter Neal pleaded guilty, prose­cu­tors in­di­cated they will leave the charge against Pat­ter­son to lie on file.

Neal, who was al­ready re­manded in cus­tody and ap­peared in court on a video-link, was warned a prison sen­tence is in­evitable.

Judge Sarah Mal­lett, at New­cas­tle Crown Court, said: “I will ad­journ the case of Claire Neal for a pre-sen­tence re­port but a sen­tence of im­pris­on­ment is in­evitable.

“The re­port will go to the length rather than the type of sen­tence.”

A trial orig­i­nally be­gan in Au­gust but the jury was dis­charged and it was as the re­trial was about to start that Neal changed her plea.

Prose­cu­tors said in the first trial a teenage girl came across Mar­ley in the street on May 18 af­ter he es­caped from the front gar­den of Neal’s home on Chasedale Cres­cent, Blyth.

The jury heard the dog had got un­der the gate and got loose twice ear­lier that day and been re­turned.

Stephen Grattage, pros­e­cut­ing, said, on this oc­ca­sion, the girl de­cided to take Mar­ley home so her mother could ring the RSPCA and trace its owner as she be­lieved the an­i­mal was lost.

He said: “This case re­lates to a girl who loves an­i­mals find­ing in the street a dog, which seemed friendly.

“It fetched sticks for her. It seemed obe­di­ent and she played with it. It had no col­lar, lead or muz­zle and the girl de­cided to take it home for her mum to call the RSPCA.

“She called it Lady and walked from the Nisa store, in Cow­pen, Blyth, to­wards her home.

“Only the dog she had come across was not any dog. It was a dan­ger­ous dog.

“It was a dog, which had got loose be­fore and had been found to be a dog which would at­tack young chil­dren.

“It had done it be­fore. The dog was so dan­ger­ous that the de­fen­dant Claire Neal had pre­vi­ously been con­victed of be­ing the owner of it, a dog which caused in­jury while dan­ger­ously out of con­trol in a pub­lic place, and the court had or­dered the de­struc­tion of the dog and dis­qual­i­fied Claire Neal of hav­ing cus­tody of any dog.”

The court heard that as the girl walked past the park on Burns Close, Mar­ley ran inside and grabbed a ball, which a six-year-old girl was play­ing with.

The ball burst in the dog’s teeth prompt­ing the young­ster to try and get it back, ju­rors were told.

Giv­ing ev­i­dence via a video link, the teenager de­scribed Mar­ley then jump­ing up at the child and bit­ing her be­fore it went on the ram­page and at­tacked 11 other pan­ick­ing young­sters in the park.

Mr Grattage said: “As she [the child] tried to take the ball back, the dog took her to the floor and started to bite her, pulling her along the ground.

“As other chil­dren started to run, it chased them, bit­ing arms and legs and pulling them to the ground.

“Some climbed fences and climb­ing frames in a bid to escape. Some made it to safety but then, when they saw par­ents run­ning for them, or the dog was dis­tracted bit­ing some­one else, they ran from where they were to get out of the park, only for the dog to turn and bite them as well.”

Ju­rors were told a neigh­bour heard the screams and ran to the play area, where he saw the chil­dren be­ing at­tacked.

He man­aged to get some young­sters with in­juries over the fence un­til more adults ar­rived.

Mr Grattage added: “Even­tu­ally more adults ar­rived and were able to get con­trol of the dog with a lead.

The in­jured chil­dren were left strewn cross the grassy bank and waited for help to come.”

Dur­ing her ev­i­dence, the teenage girl said she had also tried to catch the dog with her jumper but had been forced to back away when it had bit­ten her on the leg.

A num­ber of the chil­dren were taken to hos­pi­tal, where their in­juries were glued or stitched or they were given a course of an­tibi­otics.

The court heard Mar­ley was traced back to Neal’s houses and she was ar­rested but told of­fi­cers he wasn’t her dog and that she had given it away.

How­ever, she later changed her story and said the an­i­mal be­longed to the courts af­ter the ear­lier de­struc­tion order had been made and she had been banned from keep­ing pets.

Pat­ter­son was ar­rested the fol­low­ing day but claims she was not in charge of the dog when it es­caped.

Neal, 48, pleaded guilty to be­ing the owner of a dog which caused in­jury to 12 peo­ple while dan­ger­ously out of con­trol in a pub­lic place.

Pat­ter­son, 35, of Wind­mill Grove, Blyth, de­nies be­ing in charge of a dog dan­ger­ously out of con­trol in a pub­lic place.

Mr Grattage told the lat­est hear­ing: “In re­la­tion to that plea (by Neal) the Crown are of the view that’s ac­cept­able in re­la­tion to Leanne Pat­ter­son as well.

“We in­tend, in due course, for that of­fence to lie on file. Your hon­our will re­mem­ber the ex­treme up­set caused to the young wit­ness in the first trial and that cer­tainly plays on the Crown’s mind.

“The Crown’s view is Miss Pat­ter­son is a per­son who should never have been left in charge of the dog. The cul­pa­bil­ity lies with Miss Neal for leav­ing the dog with her.”

Judge Mal­lett said: “That’s a de­ci­sion I think is en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate.”

He told Pat­ter­son: “You must re­turn on De­cem­ber 12 when the pros­e­cu­tion will take the course they have in­di­cated, as­sum­ing there’s no other change in cir­cum­stances.

“If ev­ery­thing goes as ex­pected, the pros­e­cu­tion have in­di­cated they will leave this mat­ter against you to lie on file.”

Neal was fur­ther re­manded in cus­tody and Pat­ter­son was re­leased on un­con­di­tional bail.

Claire Neal

Leanne Pat­ter­son

The dog af­ter the at­tack

Po­lice and an­i­mal wel­fare at Burns Av­enue af­ter the at­tacks

The af­ter­math of the at­tack

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