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Dog Handler Convicted over dog deaths.

A police dog handler, whose two German Shepherds died when they were left in a sweltering car, has been found guilty of animal cruelty.

Pc Mark Johnson, 39, was convicted at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court of having unnecessarily confined his dogs “in an environment that was detrimental to their well-being”.

Johnson, who denied the charge, said he was suffering from depression and obsessive compulsive disorder leading to him forgetting his dogs, 18-month-old Jay-Jay and Jet, seven, on June 30 last year.

Johnson was given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £2,500 costs.

Many people will be unhappy at the sentence, expecting a far heavier penalty.

Sentencing him, district judge Tim Devas said it was “sad and regrettable” that the two dogs had died.

He said: “This has been an extremely difficult case, not only for Pc Johnson and his family but it’s also been difficult for me up here.”Sometimes you feel you are doing society a service or providing justice, but I don’t feel any of those things. “I feel a police officer has been let down and this is for the benefit of the police: this is a dreadful error of judgment brought about by an illness way before it happened and Pc Johnson should have been given more help.”It is a terribly sad indictment on the police force where you have an officer of his standing who is embarrassed to talk about his illness. “I cannot believe that in the 21st century, depression and men crying is so abhorrent to an institution that nothing can be done about it.”

I cannot believe that this was allowed to have happened.

I cannot believe that someone who is suffering from a stress related disorder is at work, with an animal that requires care and consideration when dedication to the dogs should have been above all else. 

 I cannot believe that any dog handler, would forget to check about their dog’s welfare in those circumstances for seven, yes seven, hours.

On 30 June last year, PC Johnson drove his own car, an estate,  to Nottinghamshire Police’s HQ in Arnold, just north of Nottingham.

He arrived just before 0700 BST and had planned to transfer the dogs to a police car but it was off the road as the air conditioning system was being fixed.

He found another car but there were no mats in the back and when he went to find some he became distracted by a police briefing.

Afterwards, he told his sergeant he wanted to discuss some medical issues with him later in the day but he needed time to do his paperwork.

At about 1030 BST he planned to let his dogs out of the car, give them water and allow them to stretch their legs. But he became distracted again by a phone call about a missing person.

At noon, he had a meeting with his sergeant about his problems and it was not until nearly 1430 BST that he finally went to check on his dogs, seven hours later.

Simon Parker, from the RSPCA, summed it up when he said “Two dogs died unnecessarily.”

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19 Responses

  1. The ACPO suit briefing the press was very quick to say that they’d be looking at disciplinary hearings for PC Johnson, and even quicker to dodge questions about the police not supporting an officer that even the courts recognised as being ill.

  2. What message does a conditional discharge send to Joe Public…..?

  3. “Many people will be unhappy at the sentence, expecting a far heavier penalty.”

    As Lesley points out above, ‘What message does a conditional discharge send out to Joe Public..?’.

    Well, for one thing, it sends out the message that there’s one rule for the police, and one for the little people.

    Not something anyone with any sense would want to send out, I’d have thought. Not with public support for the police dropping like a stone daily.

  4. I can see being distracted for maybe an hour at most. But seven hours? As you say, WEB, if he was that ill, he shouldn’t have been at work, far less in charge of police dogs. Will his employers take a long hard look at their procedures for dealing with employees’ health issues?

    Sadly, none of this will bring the dogs back from a horrific death.

  5. The lame and pathetic excuses are just as disappointing as the mockingly light sentence.

  6. To give them their due, they do seem to have ‘learned lessons’ and implimented actual changes in kennelling and policy.

    Shame it took this to do it, but who could have ever foreseen a police doghandler would do this?

  7. JuliaM – //there’s one rule for the police, and one for the little people. //

    OR- to paraphrase the RSPCA chap on Radio4 news – “There was so much public anger rthat we had to prosecute .”

    One seldom gets a Judge making quite such strongly worded comments about the shortcomings of an employer //“I feel a police officer has been let down and this is for the benefit of the police: this is a dreadful error of judgment brought about by an illness way before it happened and Pc Johnson should have been given more help.”It is a terribly sad indictment on the police force //

    FYI- I was a Police Federation Rep in the 1970s, and consider our Force “Personnel Dept “(then staffed mainly by serving & former Police Officers) did a better job than some “Human Resources” people manage nowadays.

  8. I suppose the question that will never be answered is how ill was he and should he have been put on light duties or different duties?

  9. Even if he were not mentally ill before, as a professional dog handler, the realisation of what he did would be enough to cause catasrophic problems, I would have thought.

  10. Yes JuliaM, there is one rule for the police and one rule ‘for the little people’, as you put it. The little people only have to answer the charge of wrong doing at court. This police officer will now have to face a disciplinary hearing also, so in effect is being punished for the crime twice.

    On another JuliaM, know you now how us coppers feel everytime we manage to get a guilty verdict at court only for the courts to give out a paltry sentence. I’ve lost count of the number of jobs where a conditional discharge has been given, despite numerous convictions etc etc.

  11. Distractions.

    For all of you that have never made a mistake, you won’t have made anything useful.

    Unfortunately, in this instance, two dogs died in an awful way.

    There are many, many instances where someone being distracted has resulted in the deaths of many. If you need evidence of this, see the Air Accident Investigation Branch reports. You will be surprised. Being called to the ‘phone whilst half way through a critical job. Being disturbed by a superior who asks about something not relevant to the task you are doing. Honestly, it does not take much. Proper supervision by proper supervisors can and should reduce accidents to an absolute minimum, however….

  12. I concurr, Tony F… yes we can all be distracted… that’s why i set a timer when I am cooking.. etc etc… but come on…. SEVEN HOURS???

  13. “On another JuliaM, know you now how us coppers feel everytime we manage to get a guilty verdict at court only for the courts to give out a paltry sentence.”

    You may, or may not, be surprised to find that most members of the public are as disgusted as you are at that!

  14. Lesley, I agree 7 hours is a huge amount of time. But the dogs could have died long before then. I suspect things have been forgotten for much longer too.

    What does puzzle me about this case, is, why did no one notice the dogs in the car?

  15. Chris Saunby Spot On. We are always ‘done’ twice and sometimes persued relentlesly by the Standards Dept for things that would be ignored if it were a MOP.
    7 hours is unbeleiveble though. No excuse at all

  16. Tony F… In an ‘ordinary’ car, who would noticed two dead dogs… with not even an open window to indicate their being there??

    I spend the summer ( what we have of one in South Wales) putting “Dogs Die In Hot Cars” notices under people’s windscreen wipers around here… it can happen SO quickly

  17. Lesley, Good point.

    It has to be said, last year we took great pleasure in watching a PCSO breaking a window on a car that a dog had been fastened in. It was in some distress, and when rescued, very thirsty. The owner of the car turned up a while later to a waiting Police officer. Well done all round for that. Not sure of the final outcome though. But the dog was Ok.

  18. Hi

    I wonder if you can help me? Yesterday morning my mobile rang and I answered it as normal. I was really surprised to hear the caller say “Hello Steve, this is Chris Grayling”

    As you probably know, Chris is the potential Home Secretary if the Tories win the election. Contact up to this point had only been by e mail, but the purpose of his call highlighted a pressing need for a bit of help.

    Early in January, I sent an FOI request to each of the 43 police forces asking the questions:

    1. Please provide the total numbers of officers by rank within your force for 2009
    2. How many of those officers were assigned to response duties in 2009
    3. What are the non response administerial departments within your force?
    4. How many police officers are assigned to each of these departments, by rank?

    Inspector Gadget, Copperfield, Bloggs and many others have made frequent reference to the disparity between the resources available for response duties and those assigned to ad ministerial or clerical functions. I wanted to put actual numbers to this problem, to identify the enormity of the issue. I have been pleasantly surprised to receive detailed responses from all but 6 of the 43 forces, accounting for over 120,000 of the 143,000 officers in England & Wales. The results are in and I am sure you won’t be surprised at how dangerously low the response numbers are across the country. (45% across England & Wales, which is an absolute best case scenario, allowing forces the benefit of the doubt when we suspect they have slightly overstated the numbers).

    I am in the process of completing the report and it will be available on our site shortly. I copied Chris Grayling in on the progress. Chris telephoned me to ask if the report would be ready today/tomorrow, as he wants to include it in the Times Online week long feature on crime which starts next week. As you can guess, he has a direct link into their office and assures me that the content will go to print.

    HOW CAN YOU HELP?

    To supplement the report, Chris is very keen to have anonymous input (via us) from frontline officers about the consequences of the response shortages you guys tell us about. I have started trawling the police blog sites looking for relevant articles and comments that will support the statistical report. I have a fair bit of material already, but as you know your own sites best, I hope you might be able to locate particular relevant links from memory. I will NOT be identifying the sites where the articles were sourced to protect the anonymity of the authors (unless you specifically request the URL to be included). I will delete usernames, dates etc unless you advise otherwise As we are all out there in the public domain anyway, I can only envisage increased visits to your sites if you choose to specify the URL, but this is entirely your choice.

    Among our initial observations are that the exceptionally low response numbers are further diminished by:-

    Splitting the officer count across three shifts
    Taking rest days, sickness, annual leave and courses into account
    The British Crime Survey section reflects head of population per full time equivalent officer
    This is massively different when weighed against purely response numbers
    The low response numbers throws serious doubts onto the ability of forces to deliver on projects such as “The Policing Pledge”

    I’m sure you can think of plenty of other implications the numbers will affect, so any views or suggestions are welcome.

    As soon as I have a draft copy I will copy everyone in.

    Hoping you can help.

    Kind Regards

    Steve

    Steve Bennett (ex PC West Mids)

    http://thinbluelineuk.blogspot.com
    steve.bennett@nice-1.co.uk

  19. Hi SOC

    I wonder if you can help me? Yesterday morning my mobile rang and I answered it as normal. I was really surprised to hear the caller say “Hello Steve, this is Chris Grayling”

    As you probably know, Chris is the potential Home Secretary if the Tories win the election. Contact up to this point had only been by e mail, but the purpose of his call highlighted a pressing need for a bit of help.

    Early in January, I sent an FOI request to each of the 43 police forces asking the questions:

    1. Please provide the total numbers of officers by rank within your force for 2009
    2. How many of those officers were assigned to response duties in 2009
    3. What are the non response administerial departments within your force?
    4. How many police officers are assigned to each of these departments, by rank?

    Inspector Gadget, Copperfield, Bloggs and many others have made frequent reference to the disparity between the resources available for response duties and those assigned to ad ministerial or clerical functions. I wanted to put actual numbers to this problem, to identify the enormity of the issue. I have been pleasantly surprised to receive detailed responses from all but 6 of the 43 forces, accounting for over 120,000 of the 143,000 officers in England & Wales. The results are in and I am sure you won’t be surprised at how dangerously low the response numbers are across the country. (45% across England & Wales, which is an absolute best case scenario, allowing forces the benefit of the doubt when we suspect they have slightly overstated the numbers).

    I am in the process of completing the report and it will be available on our site shortly. I copied Chris Grayling in on the progress. Chris telephoned me to ask if the report would be ready today/tomorrow, as he wants to include it in the Times Online week long feature on crime which starts next week. As you can guess, he has a direct link into their office and assures me that the content will go to print.

    HOW CAN YOU HELP?

    To supplement the report, Chris is very keen to have anonymous input (via us) from frontline officers about the consequences of the response shortages you guys tell us about. I have started trawling the police blog sites looking for relevant articles and comments that will support the statistical report. I have a fair bit of material already, but as you know your own sites best, I hope you might be able to locate particular relevant links from memory. I will NOT be identifying the sites where the articles were sourced to protect the anonymity of the authors (unless you specifically request the URL to be included). I will delete usernames, dates etc unless you advise otherwise As we are all out there in the public domain anyway, I can only envisage increased visits to your sites if you choose to specify the URL, but this is entirely your choice.

    Among our initial observations are that the exceptionally low response numbers are further diminished by:-

    Splitting the officer count across three shifts
    Taking rest days, sickness, annual leave and courses into account
    The British Crime Survey section reflects head of population per full time equivalent officer
    This is massively different when weighed against purely response numbers
    The low response numbers throws serious doubts onto the ability of forces to deliver on projects such as “The Policing Pledge”

    I’m sure you can think of plenty of other implications the numbers will affect, so any views or suggestions are welcome.

    As soon as I have a draft copy I will copy everyone in.

    Hoping you can help.

    Kind Regards

    Steve

    Steve Bennett (ex PC West Mids)

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