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Police trainers convicted of cruelty to dogs

THREE POLICE officers convicted of running a "brutal" training regime for police dogs in Essex walked free from court yesterday. Two were granted bail pending appeals against jail sentences, while the third was sentenced to 200 hours of community service.

All had been found guilty of hanging the dogs by their collars over fences and walls, and instructing their handlers to kick the animals during training to gain domination over them.

Sergeant Andrew White, 38, and Constable Kenneth Boorman, 45, were both senior figures in the Essex police dog section when the cruelty took place between September and December last year.

White was head of training and Boorman an instructor at the unit, based in Sandon.

They had denied 13 offences under the Protection of Animals Act, but were sentenced to four months in prison after being found guilty. Another former training instructor at the unit, PC Stephen Hopkins, 42, was given community service and ordered to pay pounds 1,000 towards costs after being convicted of one cruelty offence.

The officer in charge of the unit at the time, Inspector Graham Curtis, 43, was acquitted of three alleged offences at the end of a three-week trial at Chelmsford magistrates' court.

Stipendiary magistrate Kevin Gray told White and Boorman that they were guilty of advocating disciplinary methods which could only be described as "brutal".

He added: "I would be failing in my duty if I failed to reflect the seriousness of these offences by imposing custodial sentences."

White wept when the guilty verdicts were announced.

One of the dogs disciplineddied in November last year after twice being suspended over a fence and kicked.

The court was told that White, Hopkins and Boorman would almost certainly lose their jobs because of their convictions.

After the hearing Charles Clark, Deputy Chief Constable of Essex, said the three would face disciplinary proceedings but those would have to wait until the appeals process was complete. He said the three officers would be suspended from duty until that time.

All three had continued to keep police dogs at their homes. Mr Clark said those dogs would now be taken from the officers.

Andrew Mitchell, senior officer for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said he was satisfied with the sentences, describing the treatment of the animals as "barbaric".