14th May 2014
3,076 people have been bitten by police dogs over the past three years, with police forces from around the country having to pay out a total of £770,000 in personal injury claim compensation to people who have been bitten by the canine units.
A Freedom of Information request from the BBC has found that the figure has been paid out since 2008 at a time when police budgets are being cut by 20 per cent and many officers face reduced wages or redundancy.
It revealed that of the 3,076 people who were bitten by police dogs, 2,725 were suspects, whilst 155 were other members of the public and 196 were police staff. West Midlands police recorded the most dog bites – 644 – but it was the Greater Manchester force which has paid out the most in personal injury claim compensation – £180,743.
One victim who has yet to receive compensation for his leg injury is Brian Kiddell, who told the BBC that he was bitten whilst he was on his allotment in Chessington, Surrey. Police had been chasing the driver of a stolen car over the land, when one of the pursuit dogs attacked Brian "and just held on". The police offered him £4,000 in accident compensation, but he's holding out for more as he used to work in the damages field and thinks that he should be compensated to the tune of £10,000.
The use of police dogs has been defended by Assistant Chief Constable Nick Ingram, who is the lead on their usage for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo). He remarks that "police dogs are a valuable and essential resource which, when used effectively, make a valuable contribution to reducing and detecting crime and disorder and building safer communities."
Making a personal injury claim for a dog bite doesn't necessarily involve the police, as was found recently by Canterbury and Whitstable MP Julian Brazier, who was awarded £150 by magistrates after he suffered a leg injury after being bitten by the dog of a farmer.
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has also released a new film in response to what it calls a "worrying increase in the number of dog attacks in the UK". The charity created the video for children after NHS figures showed that there has been a 29 per cent increase in people visiting hospital with dog bites over the last five years, with a quarter of the victims being under the age of 14.