A pitbull owner who was jailed after his dog mauled five police officers saw his name cleared on appeal after judges heard it was the police who let the dog out in the first place.
Doberman-pitbull cross Poison was shot dead outside Symieon Robinson-Pierre’s home after the dog savaged officers who had broken down the door to execute a search warrant.
Mr Robinson-Pierre, 26, was jailed for 22 months at Inner London Crown Court in January after he was convicted of three counts of owning a dog dangerously out of control in a public place.
But judges at the Court of Appeal said the way the crown court judge directed the jury effectively prevented Mr Robinson-Pierre, of Stratford, from having a fair trial.
The judge had not told the jury to consider whether Mr Robinson-Pierre had done anything – or failed to do something – which resulted in the dog being out in public, said Lord Justice Pitchford.
“It was common ground at trial that the dog escaped from confinement in a private dwelling by reason of the deliberate act of a third party,” said the judge, who heard the appeal with Mrs Justice Nicola Davies and Judge Peter Collier QC.
The court heard how the attack took place in March 2012 when officers forced their way into Mr Robinson-Pierre’s home.
The four-and-a-half stone dog clamped its jaws on one officer’s thigh inside the house. One police officer hit the animal on the head with a metal battering ram, but to no effect.
The dog then bit three constables in the street before being shot four times in the head by a police marksman.
The scene was later compared to the “the sickbay after the Battle of Trafalgar” by prosecutors, leaving three officers in need of surgery and one scarred for life.
But appeal barrister, Craig Harris, argued that the trial judge erred in telling the jury all the prosecution needed to prove was that the dog acted dangerously in a public place, regardless of the owner’s actions or failures to act.
The judge had simply told the jury to decide whether Mr Robinson-Pierre was the owner, whether Poison was dangerously out of control, whether he caused injury and whether it happened in public.
If that was the right way to approach the trial, then a blameless dog owner could be convicted of a crime if their animal bit someone in a street having escaped by a door left open by burglars, he said.
Giving his ruling, Lord Justice Pitchford said the dog had not been on a leash but was safely secured in a locked house and was only able to escape and attack when police broke down the door.
“It is our view that these facts raised for decision by the jury the issue whether Mr Robinson-Pierre had done or omitted to do anything that contributed to the dog being dangerously out of control in a public place,” he said.
“By his directions to the jury, the learned judge effectively withdrew the issue from their consideration.”
The convictions were quashed, but Mr Robinson-Pierre had already served his sentence.
He had pleaded guilty to being in possession of a prohibited dog.