Saturday 22 October 2016

Owner of pitbull which mauled 11-month-baby to death found guilty of possessing fighting dog

Lauren Brown

Published 09/06/2015 | 11:45

Ava-Jayne Corless, left, and her mother Chloe King Photo: MERCURY
Ava-Jayne Corless, left, and her mother Chloe King Photo: MERCURY

The owner of a dog which mauled an 11-month-old baby to death has been found guilty of possessing a dangerous animal.

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Lee Wright, 27, was warned that he was facing an immediate prison sentence after pleading not guilty to having in his possession or custody a fighting dog which killed Ava-Jayne Corless in February last year as he and the baby's mother slept.

Ava-Jayne Corless was mauled by a dog in Blackburn
Ava-Jayne Corless was mauled by a dog in Blackburn

Today at Blackburn Magistrates' Court he was found guilty of the offence after a two-day trial.

He will be sentenced later today after District Judge Gerald Chalk asked for a pre-sentence report to be obtained.

Judge Chalk said: "I believe Snoop was of a pit bull terrier type and therefore find Mr Wright guilty of the offence.

"I take the view that this has resulted in the death, the harm is at the very top. It can't be beyond that point. As far as I'm concerned it takes me beyond the sentencing guidelines. I'm considering am immediate prison sentence, I think it is only fair I consider a report."

The judge agreed that there was no evidence to suggest Wright had known that the dog was of a prohibited breed.

He added that both expert witness had relied on the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) as standard in making their assessment of the dog, but said it was "comment rather than definitive".

Wright had disputed that Snoop was a banned pit bull type dog in contravention of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and had believed it to be an American pit bull.

Both parties accepted that Wright was the keeper of the dog which attacked and fatally killed Ava-Jayne.

The baby suffered multiple injuries inflicted by the nine-stone dog as she slept alone in the bedroom at the Blackburn home of her mother's then boyfriend on February 10 2014.

Within an hour of the attack the dog was euthanised.

Ava-Jayne's mother, Chloe King, 21, and ex-partner Wright said they had fallen asleep on the settee downstairs and believed Wright's dog was in the kitchen blocked in by a speaker and a golf bag stand.

Both were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and child neglect before they were bailed and later told they would not face those charges.

Expert witness for the Crown retired veterinary surgeon Peter Olsen said he was satisfied that the dog had conformed to the type of a pit bull terrier.

Mr Olsen said the dog had a heavily muscled front and was finely boned at the rear, a known characteristic exhibited by pit bull terrier dogs.

He also cited the strength of the dog's skull, heavy solid legs and the size, depth and shape of the eyes as all quintessential of a pit bull terrier.

But veterinary surgeon and animal behaviourist expert Elizabeth Kendal Shepherd said she was "unable to form any reliable opinion" about the dog's breed.

The court heard that Wright had believed that the dog had been an American bull dog.

His solicitor Gareth Price said the dog had attended the veterinary surgery on "many occasions".

"Nobody at the veterinary practice had alerted Mr Wright to the fact it was a pit bull terrier. It was recorded at the vets as an American bull dog."

He added that the RSPCA had cause to speak to Wright about the dog and that "nothing was mentioned that Snoop was of a type prohibited".

Mr Price said that his client had "continued under the apprehension that the bull dog was an American bull dog".

He added that Wright had been left "upset" after the events of last year.

The court was told that Wright had been convicted of harassing Ava-Jayne's mother Chloe King in October last year after pleading guilty to the offence.

Press Association

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