No sanction as dog attack on private land

A Weimaraner dog.
A Weimaraner dog.

The owner of a dog which injured a woman while dangerously out of control faced no sanction last week because the attack was deemed to have happened on private land.

Christine Frederick had been accused of allowing her Weimaraner to be dangerously out of control in public after it left the defendant’s neighbour, Josephine Sloan, needing hospital treatment following an incident on Good Friday.

St Helens Magistrates’ Court heard how the dog ran at Ms Sloan while growling and barking before biting her right thigh as she tried to help Frederick find her keys.

But, crucially, the attack took place in a gated alleyway at the back of Cowley Hill Lane - an area which was deemed private, not public, by justices.

Amazingly, had the attack taken place just a few weeks later, it would have been much more likely to result in a conviction as the law was changed to cover dog attacks on both public and private land.

The court heard how Ms Sloan had been reading in her back yard as Frederick, 66, of Cowley Hill Lane, walked her three dogs up and down the alleyway which runs at the back of their houses.

The defendant then knocked on Ms Sloan’s door to ask for her help as she had lost her keys.

As Ms Sloan went into the alleyway to look for Frederick’s keys, two of the dogs ran at her barking and growling and one bit her to her right thigh - just above her knee.

Ms Sloan had to be taken to Whiston Hospital for treatment.

Prosecutors argued that the alley gates were regularly left open and that a number of businesses used the alley as thoroughfare - making it a public place.

But Mr Lloyd, defending Frederick, claimed that the alleyway should be classed as private regardless of whether the gates were left open or not.

He said: “The law was changed about a month after this incident. As unsatisfactory as it may seem, that’s the law. Had this incident happened five or six weeks later we wouldn’t have even had a trial.”

Dismissing the case on the grounds that the incident happened on private land, Magistrates said: “Whether the gates were open or not this is still a private area in nature.”