I stumbled across this post recently on the website of Conservative MP Rob Halfon:

Dog bite victim meets MP and Justice Secretary

Published by Robert Halfon on June 18, 2013  | 1 Response
“I was delighted to introduce Brandon Elston, the  14-year-old Harlow boy who was attacked by a dog, to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling as my campaign continues for tougher sentences for the owners of dangerous dogs. Brandon and his parents yesterday (Monday) met Mr Grayling after I called for tougher action since the incident which left Brandon with a severed artery and a 5cm wound. Mr Grayling has pledged to look into the issue and see where the law could be changed to help Brandon. He added that he would also discuss Brandon’s case with  Home Secretary Theresa May. I have  already tabled a parliamentary motion which states:  That this House notes that the Ministry of Justice fully understands the need for tough sentences regarding those who own dangerous dogs; further notes however that the owner of a dog which inflicted a 5cm flesh wound and a severed artery on a constituent of the hon. Member for Harlow has escaped unpunished whilst the dog’s walker was handed a £250 compensation order; and asks the Secretary of State for Justice if he will consider reviewing the legislation on dog attacks in public areas to help put an end to such sentencing. In addition I have has raised Brandon’s case in Business Questions in the House of Commons when he highlighted the £250 compensation order imposed following the attack on Brandon. I asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley, whether he agreed that sentences such as the £250 compensation order for the attack were unacceptable. I have also called for an urgent statement to review the sentencing for dangerous dog attacks and asked Mr Lansley whether he would write to the Justice Secretary about the matter. I also hope to make an amendment to the upcoming Bill on dangerous dogs to address some of the issues discussed at our meeting After what happened to Brandon I was really pleased to bring him and his family down to Westminster to meet with the Justice Secretary. Brandon is an incredibly brave young man and suffered hugely. It is wrong that the sentence was so light, and wrong that the dog wasn’t put down. We must make sure that Brandon gets the compensation he deserves.”

I found the post really interesting because I think it shows really well how misguided and misinformed our law makers our. There is little doubt that the current dog laws and indeed the suggested proposals are inadequate. I fail to see for example how making micro chipping of dogs compulsory would prevent attacks such as this but I feel it is wrong for any changes to concentrate on punitive measures rather than preventative. I find it quite an old fashioned almost biblical “eye for an eye” approach.  I am sure that it brings the dog bite victim a great deal of satisfaction to know the owner is clapped in irons and the dog has been destroyed but my view is that justice isn’t the same as revenge. Unfortunately that’s what so many of these campaigns seem to centre on.  My view (and one shared by the RSPCA and many other leading bodies) remains that the law shouldn’t concentrate of punishing the dog owners after the event but look at ways to prevent such attacks. As I have said before on this site what is actually needed are tougher laws relating to and restricting the ownership of dogs in the first place.

I find it just as interesting to read the pledge from the MP that “We must make sure Brandon gets the compensation he deserves”. I’ll leave aside the fact that due to reforms brought in by the government on 1st April 2013 Brandon is likely to receive less compensation then he would have at the start of the year and I’ll just ask how exactly is this to be achieved? How will the right honourable Mr Halfon make sure that Brandon gets the compensation he deserves?

Brandon could obviously bring a civil claim against the dog owner but unfortunately unless the owner was insured there is little point and he is unlikely to recover any more than the £250 already awarded. Dog bite claims under the CICA (Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority) scheme have never been possible unless they can be shown to be deliberate and given the massive cut backs made to CICA awards recently I doubt any new categories will be considered.

The fact is you can never truly predict how dogs will act. Brandon was attacked by a black Labrador which no one would ever consider “dangerous”. The issue here is with an irresponsible dog owner. A responsible dog owner would have ensured the dog was trained and done all they could to prevent the attack but even that might not have stopped it. However if it had happened the responsible dog owner would have been insured and Brandon would indeed get the compensation he deserves.  Again though, given the governments all out attack on “compensation culture” and the lawyers who help facilitate it I wonder if anyone would be brave enough to pass law which would ensure making such a claim was made easier.


We want justice not revenge
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