Northamptonshire Police officer failed to act after being told about dangerous dog that months later went on to kill a baby in Daventry

A police officer failed to ensure action was taken over information about a dangerous dog, that later went on to kill a baby in Daventry.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 16th September 2016, 10:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 2:30 pm
Claire Riley and Susan Aucott NNL-160915-163757001
Claire Riley and Susan Aucott NNL-160915-163757001

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have today released the report of their investigation into the police’s actions surrounding the death of Molly-Mae Wotherspoon in Daventry in October 2014.

Molly-Mae was attacked by a highly aggressive family dog called Bruiser, who was a banned breed.

Yesterday (Thursday) Molly-Mae’s mother Claire Riley and grandmother Susan Aucott were both jailed for two years for their parts in Molly-Mae’s death

Det Supt Jen Helm, Northamptonshire Police outside court on Thursday

The IPCC launched an investigation into how Northamptonshire Police handled intelligence about the dog leading up to the fatal attack.

The IPCC said one officer was found to have a case to answer for misconduct for failing to take appropriate action with information received about the dog 10 months prior to the attack.

The report says that, in January 2014, the officer was told of concerns about the dog by an RSPCA inspector, and recorded that information, but failed to ensure the information was acted on.

The officer consequently received management action from the force.

Det Supt Jen Helm, Northamptonshire Police outside court on Thursday

Another officer who also was alleged too have failed to act on the intelligence received was found to have no case to answer.

The report says in January 2014, almost eight months before the fatal attack, Claire Riley took Bruiser to a vets in Northampton. Riley described the dog as a staff/mastiff crossbreed, but the vet believed it to be an American pit-bull type – a breed banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Due to the violence and aggression shown by Bruiser during the visit, the vet contacted an RSPCA inspector.

The vet said she purposely contacted the RSPCA instead of the police as on past occasions she had contacted the police but had believed that they had done nothing.

The report states the vet added that the dog was “extremely aggressive and she had concerns for the children in the same house”.

The RSPCA passed the information onto PC Claire Paul at Northamptonshire Police, including Claire Riley’s name, address, and the fears about the dog’s behaviour.

This was logged on the police’s computer system, and graded as a low priority, meaning no immediate action was required.

The details were passed to another officer to action, but the investigation found that that email may have been inadvertently deleted.

PC Paul did not follow up the request for action with the officer.

The investigation report concludes: “This investigation is satisfied that on the balance of probabilities, PC Paul should have done more to action the intelligence that she had received.

“PC Paul’s inability to follow up and act upon this intelligence demonstrates that on the balance of probabilities she failed to take appropriate action to ensure an incident log was raised and that further enquiries were made in connection with this.

“This investigation recommends that there is a case to answer for PC Paul for misconduct.”

The investigation also found Northamptonshire Police did not have any specific policies or procedures in place for dealing with reports and incidents or intelligence received concerning dangerous or out of control dogs although they did have a policy on the destruction of dogs.

Responding to the IPCC report, a spokeswoman for Northamptonshire Police said: “Northamptonshire Police welcomes the findings published today in relation to the intelligence held by the force about the dangerous dog which tragically killed Molly-Mae Wotherspoon.

“The force referred this to the IPCC at the earliest opportunity after it was identified there had been a failure to take appropriate action to an intelligence log about the dog in January 2014.

“We are grateful for the findings made public today and Northamptonshire Police has already enacted many of the learning points raised. For example, Northamptonshire Police did not have specific policies and procedures in place for dealing with intelligence received concerning dangerous dogs.

“The officers identified by the Professional Standards investigation have since received the appropriate management words of advice and taken on further training.

“Within weeks of the tragedy, Northamptonshire Police instigated new and robust operational procedures around dangerous dogs and now, nearly two years on, the public should be reassured that officers have far greater awareness around this issue. Principally, that every response by Northamptonshire Police to a report of a dangerous dog is carried out in line with the force priority of protecting people from harm.”