Since the day of the awful attack on a postman by dangerous Rottweilers in Gazeley Lane, Trumpington, Cambridge in December 2008 the police have been hung up on the issue of whether the attack occurred on a public road or not. At first the police said they were investigating if the attack was on a private road they are now saying they can’t bring a prosecution against the owner due to the fact the attack was on private land.
It is important that this case goes before the court not only to ensure justice is administered, but also so that the injured postman has the opportunity, if the court determines it appropriate, to receive compensation. I am joining those calling for the police to reconsider their decision not to prosecute. I think there has been a misinterpretation of the law by the police, and prosecutors ought put the case before the courts and if there is a grey area they not the police or prosecutors should decide on it.
Section 3 (1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 states that If a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place the owner (or the person for the time being in charge of the dog) is guilty of an offence, Section 10 (2) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 defines a public place as: “public place” means any street, road or other place (whether or not enclosed) to which the public have or are permitted to have access …
There are many private roads like Gazeley Lane in Cambridge and for the police to suggest that the Dangerous Dogs Act, and perhaps other laws do not apply in them, or in other areas which while privately owned the public have access to is nonsense.
A Home Office Circular explaining the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 makes clear that the act is intended to have a very broad definition of a public place: Section 10 (2) defines a public place as meaning any street, road or other place to which the public have, or are permitted to have access. This is a wide definition of a public place which covers some areas, like privately-owned shopping precincts, that have not hitherto been covered in similar legislation. It also covers places which are temporarily open to the public, for instance, a fete or fair.
This section specifically includes the common parts of a building containing two or more separate dwelling. This is intended to cover those parts of, for instance, a block of flats where, although there may be a secure front entry door, so that the interior of the flat is not a place to which the public has unrestricted access, nevertheless the common parts are, in all other respects, a public place.
This is exactly the kind of case where magistrates, or a jury, not the police should be making the decision on if the dogs were dangerously out of control in a public place.
A Cambridge Evening News article published on the 9th of January 2009 states: A police spokeswoman confirmed the attack was on private land, which meant they could not bring a prosecution under the Dangerous Dogs Act, which states animals must be kept under control in a public place.
Cambridgeshire police have clearly in my view misinterpreted the act. Their corporate awareness of where the law applies to private land which the public have access to is not very good, for example the police have told me they have no powers to deal with youths dangerously and illegally driving mopeds and similar vehicles when they are on private roads such as those leading to the Beehive Centre on Coldhams lane. The Road Traffic Act and the Antisocial Behavior Act apply to most of the city’s private roads.
In the case of the dogs, then the 1871 Dangerous Dogs Act parts of which are still in force and have been clarified by the 1991 act could be used, as that applies, everywhere, even in and around a private house, however no criminal charges can be brought, only orders for the destruction or control of the dog(s) under this act.
Cambridgeshire’s Chief Crown Prosecutor is Richard Crowley, his contact details can be found via this link, and members of the Police Authority are listed here, these I believe will be the most effective people to lobby requesting the decision not to prosecute be reversed.
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