A judge has said he hopes a pit bull terrier is found a good home after jailing its owner for viciously setting it on a woman who had burgled his father’s house.
Martin Carter appeared at Warwick Crown Court after pleading guilty to assaulting his victim, drug-addicted burglar Sarah Burke, causing her actual bodily harm.
He had entered his plea on the basis that he had used the dog, named Marley, only to scare Burke – but that was rejected after a video clip of the incident was played in court.
Carter (30) of Sewall Highway, Coventry, was jailed for 16 months, and the judge also made an order depriving him of the dog because it had been used ‘in the commission of an offence.’
But Recorder Steven Evans stressed: “The dog ought to be re-housed; not destroyed, but re-housed. I hope the dog can be found a decent owner with whom he can reside from now on.”
Prosecutor Rebecca Wade said that in September last year the police were called to an incident in Roseberry Avenue where Sarah Burke said she had been attacked by having a dog set on her.
“Another person described a pit bull standing over a female on the ground and biting her while the male was hitting her to the head.”
That witness took the registration number of a van to which Carter returned, calling to the dog: “Leave her, come on.”
Miss Wade said Burke, who was later arrested on suspicion of having burgled the Wood End, Coventry, home of Carter’s father on the day before the attack, had bruising and swelling, but there was no break to the skin.
Burke, a crack addict, of Deedmore Road, Wood End, later pleaded guilty to the burglary and was jailed for three years on her 48th birthday in October, but took her own life in prison the following month, said Miss Wade.
Carter and an associate who had been in the van with him on the day of the attack were arrested over an unconnected matter in November.
The other man’s phone was seized, and on it the police found a recording of the attack, uploaded to WhatsApp, on which Carter could be identified from distinctive tattoos on his hand.
Commenting that Marley had plainly been used as a weapon, with Carter directing him to different parts of Burke’s body, Miss Wade asked for a deprivation order in relation to the dog, which the police seized in January.
Rachel Pennington, defending, said: “What he did was stupid and immature. The night before this, the defendant’s father had been burgled, and he was aware that this victim was said to be responsible.”
Miss Pennington said Burke had been hit by a car the day before, so it was not clear what injuries were due to the assault, and there were no puncture marks as a result of the ‘ragging round’ by the dog.
And Recorder Evans accepted: “The dog was not as violent as it might have been.”
Opposing the application for a deprivation order, Miss Pennington said the dog was jointly owned by Carter and his partner, on whom its loss would have an emotional impact.
Recorder Evans observed: “It’s not being said the dog itself is dangerous, but undoubtedly the defendant used the dog as a weapon, and the appropriate course is to deprive him of it.”
He told Carter: “Your father, who is housebound, was burgled by your victim in this case. She was a woman with her own difficulties with alcohol and drugs, not that that is any excuse for her behaviour. But what you did was to take the law into your own hands.
“It was a powerful dog… The dog itself is not inherently dangerous, but dangerous like any dog if being directed by its owner to act in a particular way.”