Dangerous dogs can ruin lives, and victims of canine attacks will be relieved to hear of an important tribunal decision which opens the way for many of those injured to seek compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).

A cyclist was attacked and seriously injured in the street by a Staffordshire bull terrier cross. The dog’s owner was later convicted of an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and given a suspended four-week prison sentence. The court also ordered that the dog be destroyed as it could not be satisfied that the animal would not constitute a danger to public safety. However, the victim was refused compensation by the CICA on the basis that what happened to him did not amount to a crime of violence.

That decision was subsequently upheld by the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) on the basis that the attack was random in nature and the dog had no previous history of attacking people. Despite the owner’s conviction, it was not a case in which the dog had been deliberately set upon the cyclist or used as a weapon.

In allowing the victim’s appeal, the Upper Tribunal found that the FTT had erred in focusing upon the dog’s history, rather than its owner’s state of mind. The fact that the court had decided to impose a term of imprisonment, albeit suspended for 12 months, on the owner was an indication of the seriousness of the offence and there was evidence that he had recklessly allowed the dog to become out of control. The victim’s case was sent back to a freshly constituted FTT for reconsideration.


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