Judge arrested after dog attacks passer-by for third time in a year

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The Independent Online

A crown court judge was arrested yesterday and her dogs seized after one of them attacked a passer-by for the third time in a year.

Beatrice Bolton, 57, was walking in her home town of Rothbury, Northumberland, when one of her two German shepherds bit the leg of a 22-year-old man.

She was arrested and taken to a police station for questioning before being released on bail. The fate of her pets depends on the investigation's outcome.

The incident is the latest in a string of attacks by Judge Bolton's dogs, which have cast a cloud over her career as a senior judge at Newcastle Crown Court.

The £140,000-a-year judge's job already hangs in the balance after she swore at magistrates when they convicted her for failing to keep bitch Georgina under control last December.

She had been fined £2,500 at Carlisle magistrates' court after the animal attacked her 20-year-old neighbour, Frederick Becker, as he sunbathed. Judge Bolton stormed out of the courtroom, calling the magistrates' decision "a fucking travesty", before later declaring, "I'll never set foot in a court again."

The court heard at the time how the attack was the culmination of a dispute between Judge Bolton and next-door neighbours John and Anne Malia, Mr Becker's parents.

The couple, who described Judge Bolton as a "neighbour from hell", said they were "scared" of the dogs and had repeatedly asked her to keep them off their part of the shared garden, which is overlooked by their adjoining homes.

They even set up CCTV cameras and documented her dogs' movements.

And last week, they complained after the judge split the gardens by putting up a fence without planning permission. She will be allowed to keep the fence for two years to allow a hedge to grow.

In April, the Royal Mail suspended deliveries to her home and neighbouring properties after postman Kenneth Auld was also bitten. Bolton was investigated and the Crown Prosecution Service is considering whether to bring charges. Despite an apology to bewildered magistrates after last year's courtroom outburst, Judge Bolton has not sat at Newcastle Crown Court since.

Her future as a judge now lies in the hands of the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor after her behaviour was referred to the Office for Judicial Complaints. A spokesman for the office refused to give any details while its investigation was ongoing.

Last week's attack came on the same day London's Deputy Mayor handed a petition to Prime Minister David Cameron calling for tougher laws on dangerous dogs. Kit Malthouse called for stiffer penalties for owners of banned "weapon dogs" and swifter justice in dog attack cases. "Unless legislation is toughened up, these attacks will continue," he said.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was introduced after a slew of vicious attacks on children by pit bull terriers provoked a public outcry. It was then that the term "devil dogs" was coined.

The act was amended in 2007 to categorise illegal dogs by their behaviour and characteristics, not just their breed.

The maximum penalty for the owner of a dog who attacks someone is five years. Judge Bolton has been bailed.