Dempsey lawyer to appear before select committee

THE SOLICITOR who helped pluck Dempsey the pit bull terrier from death row is to tell MPs why there should be a change in the law.

Trevor Cooper is to give evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee this Wednesday during a session on the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Cooper, partner at Kent firm Sharratts, has become an expert in the Act since he took up the case of Dempsey, who was ordered to be destroyed after her muzzle was taken off in public because she wanted to be sick.

Last November, after the dog had spent three and a half years awaiting its fate, the High Court quashed the order on a legal technicality.

Cooper said the key difficulty with the Act, rushed through Parliament in 1991 by the then Home Secretary Kenneth Baker – after a series of attacks by pit bull terriers – was that it did not allow magistrates the discretion to spare dogs.

“If the court decides that the dog does not represent a danger to the public then it should be allowed to go home,” he said.

Cooper, a commercial lawyer by trade, has acted in several dangerous dog cases since he took on Dempsey's cause on a pro bono basis.

He will be giving evidence on behalf of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 Reform Group.

Next week, it will be the turn of the Magistrates' Association and the Metropolitan Stipendiary Bench to give evidence to the committee.

At an earlier House of Lords hearing, the Magistrates' Association argued that owners would be more likely to plead guilty to offences if there was discretion because of the possibility of their pets being spared.