Woman banned over dog that killed grandson

Mike Hornby,Press Association
Thursday 01 July 2010 17:06 BST

A woman was given a suspended jail sentence today after being convicted of keeping an illegal dog which killed her grandson.

Four-year-old John-Paul Massey suffered multiple injuries when he was savaged by the pitbull, Uno, at Helen Foulkes's home in Liverpool last November.

Foulkes, 63, admitted one charge of keeping a dangerous dog at Liverpool Magistrates' Court.

She was given a four-month jail term, suspended for 18 months, along with a supervision order, and also banned from owning a dog again.

Her son, John-Paul's uncle Christian Foulkes, 21, pleaded guilty to owning the animal and was jailed for four months in June.

Sentencing the grandmother today, bench chairman Ian Lomax told Foulkes: "Here we have an extreme example of what a dangerous dog can do when they are deemed unsuitable to be kept as domestic pets.

"I don't need to remind you of the consequences. It is as extreme as you can get - the death of your grandson.

"You will have to live with that for the rest of your life.

"No purpose will be served by you serving an immediate custodial sentence."

Foulkes, of Ash Grove, Wavertree, Liverpool, was supported today by several relatives, including her daughter and John-Paul's mother, Angela McGlynn.

On the night the youngster was killed, November 29, he was staying at the home of his grandmother and uncle.

Uno, a two-year-old white male pitbull, had been left in Foulkes's care when her son joined the Army. Another pitbull-type dog, a bitch called Lita, was given to John-Paul's father to look after.

The family considered the grandmother was unable to look after both dogs, the court previously heard.

The little boy had woken up at around midnight and said he was hungry so his grandmother went to get him a packet of crisps.

By the time she returned John-Paul was already asleep again so she opened the crisps to give them to the dog.

But as she did, Uno pounced at John-Paul. She tried to force the dog off her grandson and was attacked herself as a result.

Prosecutors have described Uno as a "powerful dog" and said police had to distract the animal before ambulance staff were able to enter the house and treat John-Paul and his grandmother.

It was later decided by police to destroy Uno and it took two bullets to kill the dog.

Lita died when she was knocked down by a car a day after John-Paul was killed.

A post-mortem examination found that, at the time of her death, she was pregnant with 11 pups sired by Uno.

Ten months before John-Paul was killed, Merseyside Police had received a complaint from a housing officer about dog breeding at Foulkes's home.

But the force's call centre operator wrongly told the caller it was "not a police matter" and the complaint was never followed up.

The matter remains under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Merseyside Police have destroyed hundreds of illegal breed dogs since the death of five-year-old Ellie Lawrenson on New Year's Day 2007.

Ellie, from St Helens, Merseyside, was also being minded by her grandmother, Jackie Simpson, when she suffered dozens of bites from her uncle Kiel's pitbull, Reuben.

Mrs Simpson was cleared of manslaughter by a jury at Liverpool Crown Court.

Kiel Simpson pleaded guilty to owning a dog banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act and was jailed for eight weeks by Liverpool Magistrates in May 2007.

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