The owner of the four “hyper aggressive” dogs who savaged to death 14-year-old Jade Lomas-Anderson has walked free from court, leaving the girl’s family “disgusted” at the suspended sentence.
Beverley Concannon kept two bull mastiffs and two pit bulls cooped up in her Greater Manchester council house almost all day, in conditions which led them to go “stir crazy” through physical and mental distress.
On 26 March this year, Ms Concannon left her daughter and Jade alone in the flat to go shopping, after the pair had had a half-term sleepover the night before.
Wigan Magistrates’ Court heard how the dogs then turned on Jade, inflicting “horrific” injuries “from head to toe” before running out into the small garden covered in blood.
Ms Concannon, 45, had previously been warned about the conditions in which she kept her dogs. She admitted causing unnecessary suffering to bull mastiffs Buddy and Neo and Staffordshire bull terriers Ty and Sky between 19 July 2012 and 25 March this year.
She sat head down in the dock throughout the hearing just yards from Jade's family, who broke into tears as the court heard distressing details of the incident.
But they marched out of court in unison as Ms Concannon was told she would not be going to jail immediately.
The defendant was given a 16 week jail sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs and a victim surcharge amounting to £165. She was also banned from keeping dogs indefinitely.
The Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to bring a charge of manslaughter by gross negligence against Ms Concannon.
It also said it could not bring any charges under the Dangerous Dogs Act because the four dogs were not banned breeds and were not out of control in a public place; the attack took place in her home.
Jade's mother Shirley was not in court but other family members were, including her stepfather Michael, who said he was disgusted with the sentence.
“I'm devastated and disgusted in the justice system. Today was just about dangerous dogs. I think she should be held responsible for Jade.
“We have got a life sentence. It has absolutely ripped us apart.”
Paul Taylor, prosecuting, read a statement from Pc Burkinshaw, who was first on the scene after a 999 call and found Jade dead in the kitchen of the house with the dogs in the garden and the kitchen door open.
“I will never forget what I saw,” it read. “There was a large white bull mastiff type dog in the yard.”
“Its head and mouth were covered in blood and it was bounding around the yard. There was also another very large brown coloured bull mastiff type dog. It was also covered in blood, and two smaller pit bulls. They too had blood all over them.
“I felt disbelief and shocked by what had happened. I have not dealt with anything as distressing as this incident in my career and my heart goes out to this girl and her family.”
Mr Taylor said the way the dogs had been kept led to the tragedy.
Ms Concannon called the most aggressive dog Buddy her “baby” - though it was kept “crated” nearly all the time in a cage not big enough for it to raise its head or turn around properly.
The other mastiff lived in the yard while the pit bulls were confined to the kitchen, and none of them were walked despite there being a park two minutes from the house, the court heard.
A report by canine behaviour expert Annette Conn concluded all four dogs suffered chronic frustration, and physical and mental distress. It described Buddy as “stir crazy”.
Mr Taylor said: “Without exercise and stimulation dogs are likely to become hyper-aggressive. The defendant knows this and this is what happened with fatal consequences for Jade.”
On the day of the incident Ms Concannon had gone shopping, leaving her daughter and Jade alone with the dogs, a “dangerous situation” she should never have allowed to happen, Mr Taylor said.
Ms Concannon said she did not want her dogs mixing with people because she wanted them as guard dogs.
“No doubt she prized them for their aggressive traits,” Mr Taylor added.
Locals had complained before to housing and council officials about how the animals were kept and about their barking, but Ms Concannon was allowed to keep them.
Bill Pearson, defending Ms Concannon, said: “She tells me she would give anything to turn the clock back.
“She has a daughter, that young daughter found Jade Anderson, her daughter will never be the same again and neither will Beverley Concannon.
“I ask you not to take a mother away.”
Additional reporting by PAReuse content