Boy bitten by police dog is awarded compensation

A young boy who was bitten by a police dog has been awarded over £40,000 in compensation from Sussex Police.

The 14-year-old boy was bitten on the ear by the dog after police were called to break up a brawl involving youths with knives and bottles in Brighton city centre in 2002. When police arrived at the scene at around 2.30am the group fled, with one of them being caught by the police dog.

The boy who was caught claimed he had nothing to do with the fighting and was just an innocent bystander. He was not arrested but was taken to hospital. He suffered injuries to his face and needed reconstructive surgery.

The dog which caught the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was a German shepherd called Bruce. He was later put down by lethal injection despite several petitions to save him, as Sussex police said he had strayed from his training.

The boy was awarded compensation after threatening to take legal action against the force. He was awarded £42,500 in an out-of-court settlement.

There has now been outrage at the payout- believed to be the largest amount of compensation awarded in the UK for a dog bite. It is feared that it could open the floodgates to many more claims against police dogs. Chairman of the Sussex Police Federation, Inspector Brian Stockham was angry at the payout awarded and criticised the force for ruling the dog unsafe and ordering for it to be destroyed. He said: “I’m shocked. It seems dreadful that we are paying out such sums of public money to someone involved in a street disturbance. The force not only lost £42,500 but also an excellent police dog. It seems utterly perverse.”

At the time of the incident Assistant Chief Constable Nigel Yeo described Bruce as a “piece of equipment that should be destroyed if it goes wrong”. There was such an outrage among local residents that Bruce was to be put down, that they raised £600 to erect a plaque in his honour.

Sussex police has had to defend its actions in this case and Brian Welfare, the force’s civil claims manager said that although the award was high it was within compensation guidelines. He said: “It was made on the basis of medical evidence in respect of the boy’s injury and associated illnesses caused by the incident, plus his disfigurement and reconstructive surgery. The teenager was not prosecuted and was simply a bystander.”

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