Police made mistake in dog investigation

POLICE officers failed to deal properly with a dog which bit a man and then weeks later savaged five people in a St Leonards street last summer.

Sussex Police has admitted that its officers made a mistake when dealing with the initial attack last May.

The dog went on to carry out the terrifying rampage last July after escaping from a house in Marline Road.

Five people received injuries, three of them needing plastic surgery at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead.

Spencer Brown, aged 22, was jailed for nine months after admitting 10 counts of owning two Staffordshire bull terrier cross-breeds. Both animals were put down after the attack.

Brown was also sentenced to a further three months after Freak, a 35kg animal cross-bred from an American bulldog, attacked another man in his own home two months earlier.

On May 16, Jason Griggs suffered multiple cuts, wounds and a broken finger after Freak attacked him during a confrontation with Brown.

Brown admitted owning a dog which caused injury in a private place.

It was this attack in May which Sussex Police have now stated was not handled correctly by the officers first sent to deal with it.

The officers wrongly assumed Freak lived at the property. This meant the incident could only be dealt with as a civil matter.

Michelle Tugwell, spokeswoman for Sussex Police, said: “The two response officers who responded to the incident on May 16 incorrectly assumed the dog was resident at the property.

“If a resident dog bites the owner or someone in the household or a visitor it is a civil matter. If the dog is brought to the residence by a visitor and it bites a human, then it is an assault.”

An earlier police statement read: “The police response to this incident could have been better. The person bitten by the dog and his family did not receive the high quality service that Sussex Police strives to provide.

“A review identified a number of factors that contributed to the poor level of service provided.

“As a result three officers received advice and retraining with specific regard to incidents involving dog bites.”

“Processes have changed to allow officers to have a better understanding of the complex legislation surrounding incidents involving dogs.”

David Noakes, 47, of Marline Road, was one of those bitten during the attack.

He said: “One of these dogs may have been prevented from attacking us.

“The police need more training in how to handle the law and dogs.

“If a child had been in the street we could have been dealing with a death.”