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High Court Ruling - December 2013

A significant case was heard at the Court of Appeal and the ruling made will affect the way section three of the Dangerous Dogs Act (applies to all types of dogs) is applied in the courts; allowing for a potential defence to be presented in some situations.

The case before the Court of Appeal (London) was on appeal from the Crown court; the appellant (dog’s owner) had leave to appeal against his conviction on the grounds that section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA) does not permit the conviction of an owner or person in charge of a dog who did not by his act or omission cause the dog to be in a public place or cause the dog to become dangerously out of control.*

*Simplified-it was submitted that the dog’s owner didn’t himself allow by his own act or failing to act, the dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place or cause his dog to be dangerously out of control (a criminal offence) leading to an offence taking place.

(In this particular case the dog escaped from confinement in a private dwelling by reason of the deliberate act of a third party.)

The court examined to what extent is liability for the section 3 (1) offence "strict"?  Accepting and confirming that section 3(1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 creates an offence of strict liability and turning to the question - to what extent is liability for the offence strict?

During the crown court trial of this case, the learned Judge had not directed the jury to consider the issue; the jury were told that if they were sure the dog was dangerously out of control in a public place any act or omission of the appellant was irrelevant to the question whether he (the dog’s owner) was guilty of an offence, the appellant elected not to give evidence due to this- he had not being given the opportunity to meet an allegation and the High Court ruled that they could not be sure the jury verdicts were safe.

Our understanding is that establishing that the dog was dangerously out of control in a public place was not enough to allow a conviction the High Court ruled, there needed to be proof of any act or omission by the dog’s owner/person in charge of the dog that led to the offence taking place.

This Judgment will apply to England and Wales.

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill 2013-14 is progressing through Parliament and set to become law next spring. The next step is the report stage at the House of Lords on the 8th January 2014.

In England and Wales the legal definition of ‘dangerously out of control’ is: a dog is presumed to be such if on any occasion there are grounds for ‘reasonable apprehension’ of injury to any person - whether or not the dog has actually injured a person.

As previously covered and followed on our page, this Bill amends current dog law and one major change that will apply to us all is the extension of section three of the DDA to cover any place.


Robinson-Pierre -v- Regina [2013] EWCA 2396 Court of Appeal


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