A man on trial over a pitbull attack that left five policemen injured was acquitted of one of the charges against him today.
Symieon Robinson-Pierre, 25, was cleared of a charge under the Dangerous Dogs Act of being the owner of a dog dangerously out of control in a public place at the direction of Judge Mark Bishop at Inner London Crown Court.
He ruled that the attack on Pc Marc Merritt that left him with wounds to his arm and thigh took place in the garden of Robinson-Pierre's east London home, which was private property.
Pc Merritt was one of a group of officers who were raiding Robinson-Pierre's house in Albert Square, Newham, on March 22 this year.
The court had previously heard that the police officers fled screaming after the dog attacked them during the raid - while locals stood and filmed the scene on their mobile phones.
The dog was shot four times by an armed police officer after five officers attempted to subdue it without success.
Judge Bishop, after hearing legal argument, told the jury the evidence showed the attack on Pc Merritt took place in the garden of the house and ordered them to acquit Robinson-Pierre of the charge.
"Following a submission of law I have ruled that the garden area behind the wall is not a public area," he said.
"Therefore, given the evidence about where Pc Merritt was attacked, count one must be withdrawn from you."
Robinson-Pierre still faces three identical charges relating to three other officers, Pcs Paul Garrard, Lee Bush and Steve Bones, while an attack by the animal on a fifth policeman, Pc Martin Corderoy, took place in the garden and was not the subject of a charge.
His barrister Craig Harris admitted the policemen had been injured by the pitbull in a public place, but asked the jury to consider whether the dog was "dangerously out of control" when it bit them or focusing "targeted aggression" against men who forced entry to the house and then hit it with batons.
He pointed out that the dog had not attacked anyone else in the street outside apart from the policemen.
Repeating an analogy with the Battle of Trafalgar used by the prosecution at the start of the trial to describe the bloodied scene of the attack, he said: "The Battle of Trafalgar was indeed dangerous but were the ships, individuals on them and their weapons dangerously out of control or was there a controlled aggression?
"If a young boy poked a dog in the eye with a stick and the dog attacked, biting the boy's hand, it probably acted aggressively. But would the dog be out of control? It is a targeted response, controlled by the dog, however aggressive the dog is."
He added: "The inference I invite you to draw is that the dog targeted its attack at those using force on it."
Robinson-Pierre denies three charges of being the owner of a dog dangerously out of control in a public place. The trial was adjourned until Monday.