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6 Apr 22 Back to Listing

David Messling appears in High Court decision on the meaning of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

David was instructed by the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police in R(Andrews) v Chief Constable of TVP, with the Crown Prosecution Service appearing as an Interested Party. The Claimant contended it had been unlawful for the police to seize his dog “Piglet” under section 5(1)(c) of the Dangerous Dogs Act, which provides for a constable to seize a dog which appears to be “dangerously out of control”.

Piglet had twice attacked cyclists in Oxford City Centre, and six days after the latest wounding, the police seized Piglet from the Claimant. At the time of seizure the dog was not behaving aggressively. The Claimant was later convicted in respect of Piglet’s attacks on the cyclists and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, but maintained his judicial review claim against the seizure, arguing that his dog could not have been “out of control” at the time police seized him six days after the latest attack.

Mrs Justice Lang DBE accepted the Defendant’s argument that whilst Piglet might not have been acting aggressively at the time the officer seized him, section 10(3) of the Act made clear that a dog was to be regarded as “dangerously out of control” on any occasion where there were grounds for reasonable apprehension that it would injure any person. In this instance the police had such grounds based on the reported attacks. The Judge rejected the contention that the seizure power required a dog to be physically ‘out of control’ at the time of seizure, or that alternative powers of seizure such as a warrant under s.5(2) of the Act or seizure under s.19 of PACE would have been more appropriate.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 has previously been described by Popplewell J as “a piece of Delphic legislation” and has a provoked a number of claims dealing with how exactly it should be applied in practice. This case is likely to be of reassurance to police forces relying on s.5(1)(c) to seize dogs in a public place which are not banned breeds, but which officers reasonably apprehend will cause will cause injury.