Tough sentence for dangerous dog owner following attack on postman

19 May 2008

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has welcomed the tough sentence handed down to dangerous dog owner Jamal Richards at Sheffield Crown Court, following the mauling of Sheffield DO Postman Paul Coleman by Richards' two dogs.

Richards received two concurrent nine months jail sentences after pleading guilty to two offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) of allowing the dogs to be dangerously out of control in a public place. He was also banned from keeping dogs for seven years.

The Court was told that on Tuesday 18th December 2007, Paul Coleman was performing his delivery round, delivering the Christmas mail, in Grimethorpe, Sheffield when the two snarling dogs, which had escaped from a garden shed nearby, came after him "barking, growling and lunging at him".

Paul tried to escape. but the dogs grabbed a leg each and pulled him to the ground tearing "lumps of flesh" from his legs as they dragged him from the property he was delivering to, and into the road where they continued to subject him to a bloody 15-minute mauling. During the prolonged attack he suffered serious leg, arm and chest injuries.

Last month the court heard that Richards kept the dogs in an insecure garden shed in the backyard of his small terraced house on Birdwell Road, which Postman Paul Coleman had to cross. The dogs had escaped before and Richards had already been warned about his dangerous dogs a few weeks previously, but on the day of the attack neither dog was chained up or controlled.

Neighbours and a passing Parcelforce driver stopped and went to Mr Coleman's assistance. The Parcelforce driver hit the dogs with a Metal Bar but they continued the attack. Other helpers hit the dogs with various weapons including garden tools, a rake, a hammer and even boiling porridge was poured on to one of the dogs but all attempts failed to stop the dogs attack.

The dogs finally broke off at the sound of approaching Police sirens. One of the dogs, a bull terrier-bulldog cross was destroyed by armed police officers, and the other a Staffordshire Bull Terrier-Japanese tosa cross ran off.

40 year old Paul who had suffered considerable blood loss and sustained serious injuries to both legs, the right arm and his torso was rushed to hospital where he spent a week undergoing emergency surgery, followed by a series of operations, skin grafts and plastic surgery to repair his serious injuries.

The court heard he still suffers psychological problems after the incident last December and is still off work, and has reduced mobility and permanent scarring. Further surgery may well be required in the future. At one stage it was thought that he may have lost his right arm in which serious nerve and muscle damage occurred but surgeons managed to save it. Bites on his left leg went down to the bone and skin grafts were needed to the front and back of both legs. Paul has indicated that he is finding it difficult to come to terms with the attack and frequently suffers nightmares.

Sentencing Richards, Judge Alan Goldsack told him: "The photos show dreadful injuries. Lumps of flesh were literally torn from the victims body and he was in a state of trauma - as, no doubt, were the witnesses and his wife and children." He added: "Anyone knows these kinds of dogs can cause very serious injuries if they are not properly controlled."

Speaking after the case Paul Coleman said "I still suffer flashbacks and I now have a heightened fear of dogs. Hopefully this will show people they can't leave dogs out to cause damage, because they risk jail if they do". Paul hopes to return to work in six weeks time.

National health and safety officer Dave Joyce said: "The Union welcomes the seriousness with which the court treated this case and welcomes the decision of Judge in this case to hand down a sentence of two concurrent nine months jail sentences. This sends out a clear message to other irresponsible owners of dangerous animals that can inflict such terrible injuries. Imposing custodial sentences is clearly the only deterrent the individuals that own such animals will understand because small fines and compensation orders have clearly failed in the past.

"Since the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act came into force, attacks have not diminished mainly because courts have not used their full sentencing powers under the Act and the lack of consistent enforcement by the Police and local authorities. Hopefully this case signals a toughening attitude towards those found guilty under the DDA."

Dave added "We have requested investigations to determine why previous warnings, raised by a neighbour about the Dogs, were not acted upon by the Police or by the local Council and the Police are investigating this."

Paul and his Area Safety Representative Darrell Bennett ASR also highlighted some concerns regarding shortcomings at the Sheffield Delivery Office regarding the risk assessment process and the process used when an employee highlights a concern regarding dangerous dogs on his round to his manager. "We requested a thorough investigation of this by the HSE and after some discussions with Inspectors, investigations are taking place" added Dave.

Following Paul Coleman's attack the CWU's Health Safety and Environment Department launched the "Bite-Back" Campaign calling for government action on modernising and strengthening the law on dangerous and unruly dogs.

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