The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991: The Police Dog Exemption: R v PY [2019] EWCA Crim 17

Published date01 April 2019
DOI10.1177/0022018319836508
Date01 April 2019
Subject MatterCase Notes
CLJ836508 107..110 Case Note
The Journal of Criminal Law
2019, Vol. 83(2) 107–110
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991:
ª The Author(s) 2019
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The Police Dog Exemption
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DOI: 10.1177/0022018319836508
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R v PY [2019] EWCA Crim 17
The respondent was a police officer. He cared for two police dogs at his home and was paid an additional
allowance for doing so. The care provided included feeding the dogs, and exercising and training them.
The dogs were being exercised in a field when one of them attacked and injured a runner. In respect of
the incident, the respondent was charged with an aggravated offence contrary to s. 3 of the Dangerous
Dogs Act 1991, that is, of being the owner or a person in charge of a dog which was dangerously out of
control. Before the Crown Court, he relied successfully on the exemption set down in s. 10(3) of the 1991
Act, the material part of which provides that for the purposes of the Act:
references to a dog injuring a person or an assistance dog or there being grounds for reasonable apprehension
that it will do so do not include references to any case in which the dog is being used for a lawful purpose by a
constable or a person in the service of the Crown. (emphasis added)
The prosecution decided to appeal. Under ss 58(4) and (8) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, it was
required to inform the court of its intention to do so and of its acceptance that the respondent should be
acquitted of the offence in the event that leave to appeal was not granted or the appeal was abandoned
(‘the acquittal undertaking’). The prosecution dealt with both s. 58 matters via email rather than in
open court.
The appeal heard by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) was concerned with two issues. The first
related to a jurisdictional matter, namely whether email notification satisfied the requirements of s. 58 of
the 2003 Act, or whether this could only be achieved in open court. The second issue related to the
correct interpretation of s. 10(3) of the 1991 Act.
Held, allowing the appeal, that in the absence of a specified mechanism for informing the court
of the prosecution’s intention to appeal and so on and since there was no implicit requirement to do
so orally in open court, there was therefore no impediment to the intention being communicated by
email. With regard to s. 10(3), its meaning was such that it did not provide a blanket immunity for
police dogs and their handlers. Rather, the exemption only applied where the dog was being used in
a policing activity at the relevant time. On the facts, and contrary to the earlier finding, the
exemption had not been available. The matter would therefore be remitted to the Crown Court for
the proceedings to continue.
Commentary
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is a classic example of how laws may be passed very quickly where there
is a consensus within Parliament that a pressing social problem needs to be...

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