A woman has been sentenced to be jailed for four years after her Staffordshire bull terrier attacked twelve children in a playground that is located in Northumberland.
At the time of the attack, Claire Neal initially denied that the said dog belonged to her, claiming that it belonged to the courts as the dog was already subject to a destruction order because of two previous attacks on children.
However, after a first trial was aborted halfway through, Neal shifted her plea to guilty as the second trial started.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that on the 18th of May 2016, Marley, the dog, had been let into the front garden of Neal at her house in Blyth, while wearing no muzzle or collar and escaped by squeezing under her front gate.
Fiona Clancy, the prosecutor, informed the court that a teenage girl had then found Marley in the street and the girl decided to take the dog home so that her mother could contact the RSPCA.
However, as they passed a park, the dog went wild and started chasing children in the playground area. As the children tried to run away, the dog jumped on some of them, pinning the children to the ground and biting them.
Statements from the children were then read out, with one girl who was attacked stating that she fainted after the dog closed its jaws on her.
Another child said that he saw a girl being dragged along by the dog while she was screaming.
A parent described the leg of their child as looking like “Swiss cheese” after the attack, the parent said that the leg was full of puncture holes and had a big gash.
The court heard that panicked parents tried to lift children to safety, either onto the climbing frame or over the playground fence, until two men were able to tie the dog up eventually.
After the attack, nine children were hospitalised, some as young as five.
Some required skin grafts, stitches, staples, and surgery the court heard, and will have possibly caused psychological harm by the ordeal, heard the court.
Jailing Neal for four years, Judge Sarah Mallett said that it was a “sustained and repeated attack” and that her actions were “utterly irresponsible on every level.”.
She said that Neal had failed to put in place any control measures and that the dog had been trained to be aggressive by the partner of Neal.
Judge Mallet stated: “It was ridiculous to suggest Marley was not your dog, you were the owner and responsible for her at all times.
“It’s clear from these descriptions there were serious injuries, but it is also clear there was significant psychological harm.”
As Neal was sent down to begin her sentence, she stated: “I’m really sorry, I apologise.”
In addition to the sentence for owning a dog that was dangerously out of control, Neal was also banned from owning a dog for life.
The said dog has now been destroyed.