Butch was a 9-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier who was seized by Merseyside Police after he was discovered locked in a flat with his deceased owner. Butch had been there without food or water for a number of days. He had eaten some of the remains of his deceased owner, which is very distressing and sad, but a very natural thing for a dog to do in order to survive.
Prior to this sad event his owner had asked us to take Butch into our care, which we had agreed to do and were in the process of doing when this upsetting event occurred. We were prevented from taking Butch into our care by the Police.
Please read Butch's story and help us to get justice for Butch:
In August 2015 Senior Staffy Club (SSC) was asked to help Butch, a 9-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, to find a new home.Butch was, at that time, living with his owner in the Liverpool area. His owner had health issues and wanted to get medical help, but he wouldn't until he knew Butch had somewhere safe to go.
A local Liverpool rescue called Freshfields had already been working with the owner for 12 months to help him to continue to care for Butch at home, providing food and taking Butch to the vets, and had tried to find Butch a new home, but sadly to no avail. We were then contacted by a neighbour of the owner to see if we could help, and we were happy to offer Butch a space at our kennels. His owner was delighted that Butch had a safe place to go and that he would be cared for until he found a new home. He even asked if Butch could bring his toys with him! This also meant that the owner could start to sort out his health issues.
Before Butch could come to Senior Staffy Club kennels he had to receive a Kennel Cough vaccination, so, working with Freshfields, we arranged for one of their volunteers to collect Butch and take him to the vets to have his vaccination, at our expense. However, when the volunteer arrived, they could get no reply from the owner. Due to the owner's health issues everyone assumed that he had perhaps forgotten or was asleep and had not heard the buzzer. His neighbour, who had originally contacted us about Butch, continued, at our request, to try to get hold of the owner over the following few days so we could rearrange the appointment. Four days later, still having heard nothing from the owner, the neighbour managed to get someone from the Housing Association to go into his flat. As we all now know, very sadly it was discovered that the owner had passed away.
Butch had been in the flat on his own with his dead owner since at least Monday morning (if not before) and this was now Thursday mid-morning. The Police were called to the scene.
While the Police were making their entry into the flat, the neighbour had rung Freshfields Rescue and asked if they could come and get Butch on SSC's behalf, as per the wishes of Butch’s now deceased owner, until he could be transported to our kennels. Freshfields agreed to do so and attended the scene with their dog van.
The owner’s family had also attended the scene and Freshfields spoke to them about the plans that had been in progress for Butch (the family stated they did not know anything about Butch or that the owner had him), and they signed our SSC surrender form as next of kin, signing Butch into our care. However, when Freshfields spoke to police officers at the scene, explaining the background and situation and asking to be allowed to take Butch to their kennels on SSC's behalf, they were refused. The Police stated that Butch was now part of an investigation, but they did ask whether if he was released from Police kennels the next day Freshfields would come to fetch Butch, and Freshfields agreed.
The next day, having heard nothing from the Police, Freshfields made enquiries about Butch, only to be told that after they (the Police) had visited the family at home later the same day that Butch had been seized, the family had signed a Destruction Order to have Butch put to sleep, at the request of the Police. The Police said they now considered Butch to be a risk to the public, due to the fact that he had eaten some of the remains of his deceased owner while trapped in the flat with him. Although Freshfields argued that this was a natural state of affairs when a dog is left without food or water, and is a survival instinct, they were told by the Police it was not their decision to make, and it was irrelevant that the family had earlier signed Butch into Senior Staffy Club care.
At this stage SSC were powerless to act, and sadly assumed that Butch had been destroyed.
However, two weeks later, SSC received information that Butch had not been destroyed. We therefore contacted the Police solicitor dealing with the matter, who agreed that we were an interested party in the case and that she would find out what the situation was and get back to us. She never did. Despite SSC continuing to call for the next 4 weeks to get information, we never received any. However, a week after the last call we made to Police solicitors, we received a letter from Merseyside Police informing us that a Section 4B application for a Destruction Order under the Dangerous Dogs Act had been made with regard to ‘Buster’ (not Butch!), for a hearing just one week away.
We felt that we had no choice now but to attend the court hearing with legal representation to get our interest in Butch acknowledged and to ascertain if we could get Butch transferred into our care, as had been the wish of his deceased owner.On the day of the hearing, the Judge stated that SSC did indeed have an interest in the case and could be added to the proceedings as an interested party.
The Police barrister informed the Judge about the circumstances of the day Butch was seized, but produced no evidence to satisfy the Judge that Butch was a ‘dangerous dog’. The Judge then instructed that in order for the court to make a fair, balanced and informed decision, both SSC and the Police should have Butch’s temperament assessed.
Following the court hearing, SSC engaged a leading international dog behaviourist, Dr Roger Mugford, who undertook an independent behavioural assessment of Butch, and produced a video of that assessment. Here is the video:
SSC also gathered statements from the neighbour and volunteers and workers at Freshfields Rescue who had dealt with Butch in the past. All were willing to attend court and attest that Butch was a friendly boy who could be handled, even while being examined by the vet.
The new hearing held on 14th April 2016 was heard by a different Judge, Judge Wendy Lloyd. The only assessment of Butch this Judge would accept was the Police assessment carried out by the Police dog handler. The Police stated that an original assessment video they made had been lost and they then produced another video that had been made only a few days previously. The video is only 4 minutes long and includes Butch being held down on the concrete floor by his throat and then being held up in the air. Butch does react to this handling in a way that appears to be an attempt to get away from a situation that he is perceiving as threatening towards him.) Here is the Police video:
The only witness evidence allowed to be given was that of the Police dog handler. None of the witness evidence that could have been produced by SSC of Butch’s past behaviour was heard as it was deemed to be irrelevant, nor was Butch's behaviour in our independent behaviourist video deemed worthy of note, due to the use of treats during the assessment.
Based on this a Destruction Order for Butch was issued.
The Order given referred to a Right of Appeal and we therefore lodged our appeal the next day as we felt that because the Police had produced the video at court on the day we had not been allowed the opportunity to challange it and that not all the evidence had been correctly taken into account.
A week later we were informed that the Police nevertheless intended to carry out the Destruction Order before the Appeal was heard as they stated we had no right of appeal.
Our solicitor made a request to them to give an undertaking to protect Butch until the Appeal process was completed, but they refused to do so and so we were forced to take further action and this time had to attend the High Court to get an Order for Interim Relief to stop the Police carrying out the Destruction Order before the Appeal was heard. An injunction was granted pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal hearing as to whether we had a right of appeal, and if we did not then we could re-apply to the High Court for a Judicial Review.
On 20th July 2016 our case was heard in the Court of Appeal -
the Judge at this hearing was only looking at whether we had a right of appeal –
sadly he found that we did not -but this is only because the case had been brought by the Police under a part of the Dangerous Dogs Act that states Butch has no owner, and hence the statute does not allow a right of appeal due to the presumption there is no owner.
The Judge therefore had to rule as per the law as written, but did state that the issue of ownership still remained to be clarified. However, now the issue of the Right of Appeal had been ruled upon we were able to apply for a Judicial Review, which we had been prevented from doing until this issue had been decided.
Press Release from Parry Welch Lacey LLP following the Court of Appeal hearing :
"During the course of the hearing on the 14th April 2016 the District Judge found Butch to be dangerous based on a second report by a police dog legislation officer served immediately before the hearing in the magistrates’ court, the first assessment was claimed to be lost by the police and was never produced at any of the hearings. In the second assessment the officer used the technique known as an alpha roll and recorded that assessment on video.
The officer’s status as a witness able to comment on a dog’s behaviour was based on his qualifications obtained through the Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour and Training, however, evidence has now emerged from a senior tutor and former dog legislation officer from the same institution that the alpha roll technique was not taught and is not a valid method of assessing whether or not a dog is dangerous. That statement corroborates the views of other dog behaviour experts who reviewed the video of that assessment and concluded that the method employed by the police dog legislation officer was not a valid form of assessment.
Kate Welch, a solicitor and partner of the law firm Parry Welch Lacey LLP, said:
“This dog has now been held in police custody since the 10th September 2015 at public expense. The High Court is being asked to consider whether the circumstances in which the dog was seized and the manner in which it was assessed were lawful. In times of stretched police budgets where a responsible charity is prepared to and was in the process of taking the dog into their care, for assessment and re-homing, it is surprising that the police believe continuing to fight this case is a sensible use of public money.”
On January 10th 2017 we attended the High Court in Manchester for a hearing for the Application for Judicial Review.The hearing took place before Justice John Bird and lasted around two hours. The Judge heard legal arguments as to our reasons to request a Judicial Review and granted our request on two points:
1) The question of whether Butch had in fact been seized legally, and
2) The unfairness of the hearing heard before Judge Lloyd at Liverpool Magistrates Court
on 14th April 2017.
After granting us the Judicial Review, the High Court Judge spoke directly to the Police barrister and suggested that they should try to find a way to reach an amicable solution with us without involving the courts further.Sadly, such a solution was not forthcoming from the Police, and so we were forced to continue proceedings through the courts.
BUTCH – DIES WHILST IN POLICE CARE
On the afternoon of Monday February 13th 2017 Kate Welch, a partner at Parry Welch Lacey, the solicitors acting for the Senior Staffy Club, were advised by the High Court that Butch was seriously ill. Although it appears Butch had been ill for over a week, the Police had not advised Senior Staffy Club or their solicitors of any ill health he was experiencing, even though Anna O’Hare, the solicitor employed by the Police with conduct of the case, had been in the presence of Ms. Welch throughout the morning of February 13th at a time when she was well aware of the seriousness of Butch’s condition.
Following an examination by an independent veterinary surgeon, which was arranged that night by Senior Staffy Club, Butch was found to be so seriously ill that his life could not be saved and he was put to sleep.
A trustee of Senior Staffy Club, said:
“The Senior Staffy Club sought to offer Butch a safe and pleasant home for the rest of his life after the trauma he had suffered and we have been prevented from doing that by his seizure by the Police and by his death last night. All of us are very upset that Butch needlessly ended his days in police custody.“A hearing to determine the future of the Judicial Review proceedings will be held on the 24th April 2017 at the High Court in Manchester.
“We are utterly devastated by this news, there are many questions unanswered still and you can be assured that we will continue to ask them and fight for justice for Butch although he is no longer with us.”
On April 24th 2017 we returned to the High Court in Manchester for a directions hearing regarding the Judicial Review. The High Court Judge, having heard all the legal points, stated that he could see 'We had a point' in pursuing the case. We have been allowed the Judicial Review in respect of the illegality of the seizure of Butch in the first place and the unfairness of the trial. We have considered all options as to whether to continue to pursue the case now that Butch is sadly no longer with us, we have taken legal advice, and having taken time to reflect carefully, we have decided that the only option open to us is to continue.
Although poor Butch is now deceased and cannot be returned to us, we feel strongly that there is a matter of principle involved in continuing to fight on what we believe to be very important issues:
* The fact that laws, rules and regulations are in place for ALL in society to act within and to adhere to, including the Police;
* That decisions in courts should be based on EVIDENCE and ALL evidence should be taken into account, and should be heard in a fair and balanced way;
* That methods used to assess dogs in these circumstances should be approved and standardised for ALL who undertake them in line with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act;
* That these assessments in every case should be carried out by an INDEPENDENT qualified assessor by BOTH the defence AND prosecution.
We recognise that continuing with the case does not come without risks in terms of costs that could be claimed against us should we lose.We do not feel, though, that the fear of such costs should stay our hand in pursuing justice.We believe we have a very strong case, and would not be taking it forward otherwise.
The High Court Judge at the hearing on 24th April set certain timescales for talks to be had with the Police, as he said “to give the Chief Constable time to consider this particular case carefully” … with a date to be set for the Judicial Review sometime in December 2017!
We would like to thank you all so much for your support so far, we are eternally grateful that this support, together with your generous donations to Butch’s appeal (a grand total of £13,242!) have already enabled us to pay all our debts in relation to the case up to date (a total of £12,036.20) and has meant that not one penny of money donated to the Charity for use as general funds to look after the Senior Staffies in our care has had to be spent on the case itself.
However, we now need to make one final plea for help with funds.
While we wait for the Judicial Review date to roll around, we need to raise further funds
which will help to pay the legal fees for the Judicial Review itself, and should we lose the case, help pay any costs claimed against us, which in total could amount to another £12,000.
This money will be ringfenced for use solely on the court case,
and it will be personal choice if you wish to support the Justice For Butch Fundraising Fund.
We do of course hope to win! If we do and this money is not required to pay costs, we will then decide how to best use the funds raised to benefit other Seniors and let all donators know.
With this in mind we have closed the original Butch Appeal fundraising page
and opened a new donation page, “Justice For Butch”.
The existing fundraising page will be closed and the remaining £1205.80 left from
the original appeal has been transferred to this new page.
We are planning a number of events between now and December to help raise funds, the first one being an 18-mile walk on 19th August ( look out for more details soon).
So many people loved you Butch, it is heart-breaking that you never got to know . You did nothing wrong sweet boy, and didn’t deserve what happened to you.
Run free now to Rainbow Bridge and take all our love with you.
Goodnight, sleep tight XXxxx
Please help us get Justice for Butch
and donate on his Fundraising page.
Thank you Xx