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12-year dangerous dog battle lost
A man has lost a half-million-pound compensation fight more than a decade after being seriously hurt when he turned his cycle into the path of a car as an "aggressive" dog rushed at him.
The man - 14 at the time of the incident in 2002 - spent four months in hospital and was left "quite severely disabled", the Court of Appeal heard.
But three appeal judges ruled today that he was not entitled to criminal injuries compensation.
They concluded that even though the owner was guilty of an offence - because the dog was dangerously out of control in a public place - she had not committed a "crime of violence".
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) officials refused to pay compensation on the grounds that the man's injuries were "not directly attributable to a crime of violence", judges heard.
The man mounted a successful challenge at a tribunal and was awarded £499,155 compensation in 2010.
But the Court of Appeal over-ruled the tribunal and concluded that the CICA had been right.
Neither the man nor the dog's owner was identified in a written Court of Appeal ruling.
Judges said proceedings were started against the owner on the grounds that she had breached provisions of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.
But a prosecution was discontinued after she "relinquished ownership" of the dog.
Appeal judges said the man had been hurt in August 2002. He had been riding his bicycle on the pavement of a quiet residential street near his home when the "small dog", which had escaped from its owner's garden, rushed up to him "barking in an aggressive manner".
"(He) instinctively swerved away from the dog on to the road and into the path of a car," said one judge, Lord Justice Moore-Bick. "He was seriously injured. He spent four months in hospital and is now quite severely disabled."
The judge added: "The owner of the dog was well aware that it was aggressive towards strangers (although it had apparently never bitten anyone) and had in the past frightened them by barking at them. She was also aware that it would do its best to escape from the garden where it was normally confined."
Lord Justice Moore-Bick said the man had made a compensation claim to CICA. But he said under a scheme governing compensation for injuries sustained as a result of crime it was necessary for the man to establish that his injuries were "directly attributable to a crime of violence.". And CICA had rejected his claim on the grounds his injuries were not directly attributable to a crime of violence.
The judge said the man challenged the decision at a tribunal. And the tribunal had disagreed with CICA.
"It found that the dog had a history of being aggressive if it escaped and that it had been aggressive," said Lord Justice Moore-Bick. "It considered on a balance of probabilities that the injuries suffered ... were directly attributable to a crime of violence and, after a further hearing to consider the medical evidence ... it awarded him £499,155 by way of compensation."
He said CICA had appealed to the Court of Appeal
Lord Justice Moore-Bick, Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice McCombe had analysed evidence and a hearing in January - and delivered a ruling today.
"I have no doubt that the ... tribunal was right to find that an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 had been committed, " said Lord Justice Moore-Bick. "Whether the offence was properly to be characterised as a crime of violence for these purposes is, however, more difficult."
The judge added: "The critical distinction for these purposes is between the nature of the crime and its consequences. The tribunal did not find, expressly or by implication, that the dog had been deliberately allowed out of the garden; on the contrary, the indications are that the owner was negligent at worst in failing to prevent its escape.
"I find it difficult to accept that negligently to allow a dog to escape, even a dog known to be aggressive, constitutes a crime of violence, giving that expression its ordinary meaning."
He went on: "The fact that the dog was known to be aggressive clearly weighed with ... the (tribunal) but I do not think it is sufficient to enable the offence to be characterised as a crime of violence."
Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice McCombe agreed.