R Alex Andrews v Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
JudgeMrs Justice Lang
Judgment Date29 March 2022
Neutral Citation[2022] EWHC 887 (Admin)
Docket NumberNo. CO/101/2019

[2022] EWHC 887 (Admin)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

Before:

THE HONOURABLE Mrs Justice Lang

No. CO/101/2019

Between:
The Queen on the Application of Alex Andrews
Claimant
and
Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police
Defendant

and

Crown Prosecution Service
Interested Party

THE CLAIMANT appeared in Person.

Mr D. Messling appeared on behalf of the Defendant.

Mr B. Lloyd appeared on behalf of the Interested Party

Mrs Justice Lang
1

The claimant seeks judicial review of the refusal by the defendant to return his dog (Piglet) to his care on 19 December 2018, subsequent to his alleged unlawful seizure by an officer of the defendant on 20 November 2017.

2

The claim concerns the interpretation and application of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (“the Act”). In summary, the issues are:

1) whether the police may lawfully seize a dog under s.5(1)(c) of the Act if, on the occasion of seizure, the dog has done nothing to give grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person but there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person pursuant to s.10(3) of the Act, based on its conduct on a previous occasion;

2) whether a dog can be “dangerously out of control” for the purposes of s.5(1)(c) if the dog is held securely on a lead.

3

On 22 January 2019, Walker J refused permission to apply for judicial review on the papers. At an oral renewal hearing on 2 July 2019, Garnham J refused permission to apply for judicial review.

4

On 13 July 2021, the Court of Appeal (Warby LJ) granted the claimant permission to apply for judicial review on grounds (d) and (f) in his grounds of appeal and remitted the application to the Administrative Court for hearing. Permission was refused on grounds (a), (b), (c) and (e).

5

The substantive hearing was listed before me on 12 January 2022, but I had to adjourn it because Miss McGahey QC, who had recently been instructed by the claimant, had not had sight of the relevant papers, in particular, the grounds upon which Warby LJ granted permission. The claimant's skeleton argument did not address all the issues that needed to be addressed. There were numerous hearing bundles which needed to be rationalised into one hearing bundle, and copies of authorities and other materials relied upon, needed to be provided and included in a bundle.

6

In the week before the hearing listed for 29 March 2022, Miss McGahey QC and her instructing solicitor decided they could no longer act for the claimant and therefore he appears as a litigant in person. I refused the claimant's request for adjournment for time to prepare a skeleton argument as I took the view that he would have sufficient time to prepare a skeleton argument before the hearing, which indeed proved to be the case, as he filed a lengthy skeleton argument on the day before the hearing. I was reluctant to adjourn the case again, particularly since there has already been extensive delay in this case coming to court and it has been the subject of nine court orders and several adjournments.

Facts

7

The first incident involving Piglet took place on 9 October 2017. The complainant, Mr Paul Mitchell, was cycling along Parks Road in Oxford. He stopped and spoke with the claimant. During their encounter, Piglet, who was on a lead, bit Mr Mitchell on the leg. The police obtained a witness statement from Mr Mitchell on 10 October 2017 and the episode was partly recorded on Mr Mitchell's video camera. The claimant disputed that Piglet bit Mr Mitchell.

8

The second incident involving Piglet took place on 14 November 2017 in Parks Road, Oxford. Miss Victoria Lackey was cycling along Parks Road when the claimant signalled to her to stop. She decided to ignore him but, as she cycled past him, Piglet, who was on a lead, bit Miss Lackey on her leg and clung onto her leg as she was moving. She required hospital treatment. On 16 November 2017, PC Miller took a witness statement from Miss Lackey and she sent him photographs of her injury. The claimant contended that Piglet merely scraped her leg, and that a bite would have caused a much more severe injury.

9

It was common ground that both these incidents occurred on a short stretch of pavement on Parks Road where cyclists were riding on the pavement and ignoring prominent “Cyclists Dismount” signs because the cycle lane was temporarily blocked by building works. By riding on the pavement, cyclists were in breach of para.64 of the Highway Code and potentially committing road traffic offences.

10

On 20 November 2017, PC Miller and two colleagues intercepted the claimant while he was walking in the street with Piglet on a lead and Piglet was taken to St. Aldates Police Station by the claimant and the officers and detained there. Throughout this encounter, Piglet was calm and well-behaved. PC Miller's account in the Command and Control log dated 20 November 2017 stated:

“Piglet “the Dog” was involved in an incident on Tuesday, 14 November 2017 where a female was bitten to the leg resulting in a large, deep wound. Subsequent enquiries have revealed that Piglet and Alex have been involved in numerous incidents where people have been bitten and/or intimidated. As such, at around 1555 on 20/11/17, while Piglet was on his evening walk with Alex and while in a public place, I seized Piglet under s.5(1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act. Piglet was transported to St. Aldates Police Station by myself (P6511) and Alex and the Kennel contacted to collect Piglet at 1620 on 20/11/17. Alex was given all details available at the time. MM.”

11

At that time, PC Miller indicated to the claimant that Piglet would be returned to him in a few days after he had been assessed. However, the claimant made numerous requests for Piglet to be returned to him without any success. He also repeatedly asked for the legal basis for the seizure.

12

The claimant was interviewed by the police on 21 November 2017 and 8 December 2017. In summary, his account was that Piglet had not bitten Mr Mitchell at all. Piglet had grabbed hold of Miss Lackey's trousered leg, scraping her skin, when she rode her bicycle into him.

13

In an email to the claimant sent on 11 December 2017, Chief Inspector Tarbit confirmed that the power used by PC Miller was conferred by s.5(1)(c) of the Act, which permits an officer to seize a dog “which appears to him to be dangerously out of control”. CI Tarbit continued:

“This was an appropriate power, as the investigation related to injury caused to members of the public by the dog and it was reasonable for the officer to conclude that it was necessary to seize the dog to prevent a further incident from occurring.”

14

On 14 May 2018, the claimant was charged with two offences contrary to s.3(1) and (4) of the Act, namely:

1) Owner/person in charge of dog dangerously out of control causing injury on 14/11/2017 at Oxford, Oxfordshire were in charge of a dog, namely, a black Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which was dangerously out of control in Parks Road, Oxford and whilst so out of control injured Victoria Lackey contrary to s.3(1) and (4) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

2) Owner/person in charge of dog dangerously out of control causing injury on 9/10/2017 at Oxford, Oxfordshire were in charge of a dog, namely a black Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which was dangerously out of control in Parks Road, Oxford and whilst so out of control injured Paul Mitchell contrary to s.3(1) and (4) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

15

On 24 August 2018, the claimant pleaded not guilty in the Crown Court. He represented himself at his trial that commenced on 20 March 2019. On the second day of the trial he pleaded guilty to both offences. He was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment concurrent on each offence and he was disqualified from having custody of a dog for an indefinite period. A contingent destruction order was made in respect of Piglet, though he was not destroyed. The legal effect of the convictions is that the facts alleged in these charges have been found proved.

16

On 14 December 2018, the claimant wrote to the defendant requesting the return of Piglet to his custody pursuant to Home Office Circular 29/1998 para.8, which states:

“Dogs behind held in custody pending trial.

(8) Owners of dogs which are held in custody may request the return of their dogs pending trial. It is a matter for chief officers of police and local authorities to decide in the light of the circumstances of the individual case whether to return a dog to its own. Factors which chief officers and local authorities may wish to take into account in reaching a decision include the undesirability of keeping dogs in custody for prolonged periods and whether the dog might pose a threat to public safety.”

Paragraph 9 then refers to the delay in cases coming to trial and the undesirability of seized dogs being kennelled for long periods of time, stating that prosecutors and courts will wish to consider how such...

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