High Court Finds Dogs Unlawfully Killed by Merseyside Police

R (Ali & Others) v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police 9th December 2014

Mr Justice King, sitting in The High Court in Manchester, today upheld submissions made on behalf of ten Claimants that the Merseyside Police Authority had acted unlawfully in seizing and immediately destroying ten dogs.  Permission had been granted by Mr Justice Stewart, following an oral renewal hearing.  Barrister Pamela Rose, instructed by James Parry of Parry Welch Lacey LLP and both Dangerous Dogs Act specialists, represented the ten Claimants, who were each granted a declaratory order in respect of their dogs.  Altogether, twenty two dogs had been seized and destroyed in this operation.

The Court confirmed that a contingent destruction order made pursuant to section 4B of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 applies only until such time as the dog is exempted, consistent with the wording of sections 4A and 4B(3) of the Act, which states that "the court shall order that, unless the dog is exempted from that prohibition within the requisite period, the dog shall be destroyed".

Once the dog is exempted, that contingent element therefore ceases: it could not be read into the Act that if the dog subsequently ceases to be an exempted dog by virtue of a failure to comply with a condition of the Dangerous Dogs Compensation and Exemption Schemes Order 1991, the contingent destruction order continues to permit destruction of the dog.  Regard must be paid to the principle of due process.  There is nothing within the Act that permits such destruction; neither is there any provision in the Exemption Scheme which spells this out as a consequence of any failure to comply with a condition of the exemption.

In March 2014 the Merseyside Police seized 22 dogs and immediately destroyed these dogs without affording any opportunity for the Claimants to make representations, provide an explanation or to appear before a court.  All of these dogs had been exempted by the Magistrates Court, on the basis that the court had found that the dogs did not present a danger to public safety under section 4B(2) of the 1991 Act.  The police authority sought to justify the summary destruction of these dogs on the basis that the contingent order was a continuing order for life entitling them to proceed to summary destruction.  

The case was reported by BBC News.