Woman recalls being bitten by police dog as officer goes on trial
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A police officer has gone on trial accused of being in charge of a dangerously out of control dog after his German shepherd bit a woman in a park.
Police dog handler Paul Sheldrake appeared at Ipswich Crown Court on Wednesday.
The Essex officer is accused of being in charge of a dangerously out of control dog, which injured Marianne McRae, and that the dog was not being used for a lawful purpose by a police constable.
The incident happened at about 5.30pm on February 11 last year in Arun Park, Chelmsford, where Ms McRae was walking her miniature Yorkshire terrier off the lead.
Ms McRae told a jury that off-duty Sheldrake’s German shepherd police dog, Cain, appeared from a wooded area and ran towards her, lunging onto her right side and biting her hip – releasing its grip when Sheldrake ran shouting towards the scene.
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Ms McRae was treated at Broomfield Hospital and remained off work for two weeks, while Sheldrake later submitted an official dog bite report with his account of the incident.
Prosecutor Mark Halsey said the law provided an exemption where dogs are used for a lawful purpose by a constable, such as a policing activity.
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But, Mr Halsey added: “It’s not like this was an operational deployment, where there might be an operational bite, and where the dog is trained to chase after a suspect.
“A person responsible for a dog on deployment is exempt from liability, but the Crown says the exemption doesn’t apply.”
Dog unit inspector Brad Dickel’s own report expressed concern that Sheldrake had not taken account of a recent circular highlighting the importance of officers ensuring the safe exercising of police dogs.
His report described the incident as “very avoidable” and contrary to his expectations as a line manager.
When questioned by defence barrister Jamas Hodivala, Insp Dickel acknowledged that officers were required to conduct continued training of dogs outside formal sessions, including obedience exercises such as ‘long down stays’ off the lead.
He said the training was a requirement of national guidelines, but that he would expect officers to perform a dynamic risk assessment.
The trial continues.