A policeman who let a dangerous ‘ticking timebomb’ dog off its lead before it attacked an innocent athlete will not be prosecuted.
Paul Youll was in charge of German Shepherd Ilko when it bit Jonny Taylor in 2016 in Middlesbrough.
The unprovoked attack near Ormesby Stables left the international runner, then 28, with severe puncture wounds on his arms and upper body.
PC Youll took Ilko to the National Trust park near to his home on June 6 and let him off the lead – allegedly against protocol.
Ilko then attacked Mr Taylor and refused to respond to orders from PC Youll.
Paul Youll (pictured with a different dog) was in charge of German Shepherd Ilko (not pictured) when it bit Jonny Taylor in 2016 in Middlesbrough
Ilko was put down shortly after the attack.
PC Youll was to stand trial this week but a judge has ruled it would be an ‘affront to the justice system’ if a prosecution was to go ahead after hearing of failings by Cleveland Police and the dog’s former owner West Mercia Police.
The animal carried out a vicious attack while serving for West Mercia Police in 2011 but the force failed to fully share details when it offloaded Ilko to Cleveland Police in a cut-price deal.
Cleveland Police also then failed to properly share details of the dog’s background to PC Youll, the judge found.
Now three years on, Judge Stephen Earl has ruled PC Youll knew nothing of the dog’s history and should not face prosecution.
Details of the case were revealed in two days of legal argument at Newcastle’s Moot Hall this week.
The abuse of process hearing was told how Ilko carried out an unprovoked attack at a training exercise at West Mercia in October 2011.
The unprovoked attack on Jonny Taylor near Ormesby Stables left the international runner, then 28, with severe puncture wounds on his arms and upper body
A police observer was put in hospital after the attack left deep wounds.
But internal emails from West Mercia confirmed the force knew the animal posed a risk before the sale to Cleveland.
West Mercia suspended Ilko’s licence and carried out a safety assessment.
The force’s emails said: ‘If things went wrong again, there would be no backing from the force, especially in the current climate’.
The assessment concluded the dog was ‘unpredictable in nature and does pose a risk when deployed in certain operational roles’.
It said: ‘The dog has shown it can bite without provocation. It would not be appropriate to offer a licence for this dog.’
Ilko was removed from service in October 24, 2011 three days before being sold to Cleveland.
West Mercia emails also detailed how the force wanted to recoup its money.
They read: ‘With the current financial climate we are not in a financial position to simply buy another dog. If we can sell the dog we may be in a position to purchase another.’
PC Youll’s barrister Selvaraju Ramasamy said the force had two options, which were also detailed in the emails.
The first was to ‘see if the breeder would want to take the dog back’.
The second was to ‘see if there is anyone interested from the police or prison service, in my mind he would make a good attack dog’.
Mr Ramasamy added that West Mercia wanted up to £2,000 for Ilko as they were ‘looking to recoup the money’ and that an attack dog is ‘essentially a weapon’.
‘This dog should not be a general purpose dog as it poses a risk to the public, of that we can be confident,’ he said while reading out part of the emails.
But merely days after Ilko was deemed a risk, Cleveland Police bought him for the slashed price of £1,200 on October 27, 2011.
‘In 2011, PC Youll meets Ilko, because Cleveland Police buys the dog from West Mercia Police,’ Mr Ramasamy said.
‘They bought the dog for £1,200, which is interesting as West Mercia were after £1,800 to £2,000, so somehow the price has come down, one wonders why that is?’
The attack, which happened near Ormesby Stables, resulted in dangerous ‘ticking timebomb’ Ilko being put down
Cleveland Police Superintendent Bev Gill signed off the purchase of Ilko.
The dog was immediately put into general purpose training and then given a licence in that December, something an expert witness claimed should never have happened.
Superintendent Gill told police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, she was unaware of the internal West Mercia emails and the sale details.
She said that West Mercia were ‘remiss’ in the information to Cleveland Police.
The senior officer did know about the incident involving Ilko at West Mercia but was not aware of the extent of the injuries caused or the severity.
She also believed it was a handler that was bitten, when it was an observer, the court heard.
Mr Ramasamy also highlighted evidence from a prosecution expert witness, with over 20 years’ experience with police dogs.
After reading the West Mercia assessment and emails, the expert concluded: ‘I can see no rationale for purchasing a dog of this nature, it is too unpredictable for police work.’
But Ilko was put to work in Teesside and was given to PC Youll as a replacement dog, after his original had to be put down for biting him.
Mr Ramasamy said PC Youll was not told the dog was unpredictable.
Details of the case were revealed in two days of legal argument at Newcastle’s Moot Hall this week
He said the state, acting as Cleveland Police, West Mercia Police and the Crown Prosecution Service ‘created the risk’ of harm and that it was a ‘disgrace’.
Addressing the judge, Mr Ramasamy said: ‘We submit this dog was a ticking timebomb and should never have been licensed, of course, it was. This is not the fault of PC Youll but the fault of the state collectively.’
He added that PC Youll would have taken steps to ‘mitigate the risks’ had he known of Ilko’s past and would have ‘revised his methods’ but was ‘deprived of that opportunity’ as the risks were simply not passed on to him.
The court was told that it was ‘unclear’ how much of Ilko’s past Cleveland Police actually knew, but an officer from the force did travel to West Mercia Police to undertake a review of Ilko before being bought.
Records for Ilko were also requested by Cleveland Police but they were ‘not received’.
In his judgement, Judge Stephen Earl said: ‘I am satisfied that an abuse of the court’s process does exist.
‘The state owned the dog throughout and had all of the information but it was not shared.’
He added the dog’s character and behaviour were not shared with the PC and that the ‘state placed him in that position’ and that he was at a ‘distinct disadvantage’.
‘In these circumstances the only solution that is a real solution is a stay of these proceedings,’ he said.
The attack is one of several involving Cleveland Police dogs in recent years.
In 2014, Middlesbrough mother Irene Collins, 73, died four days after being attacked by the force’s dog Dano while the animal was carrying out an operation in Park End.
Later that year a Cleveland Police dog was destroyed after it bit a member of staff at the police dog kennels at Ormesby Hall.
Two years later, schoolboy Fletcher Porritt, then 10, was bitten by a police dog on the loose during an operation in Billingham.
Responding to the outcome of the latest hearing, a Cleveland Police spokesman said: ‘The judgment of the court is welcome and comes at the end of what has been a very upsetting period for the officer involved.
‘Throughout this process we have been mindful that whatever the outcome a member of the public was injured by what was at the time a Cleveland Police dog and we would reassure our communities that lessons have been learned.’
Teesside Live has contacted West Mercia Police for a response.
The IOPC watchdog has separately completed its investigation into the incident, which led to action against PC Youll.
A spokesperson: ‘We are aware of the decision of the court. Our investigation identified performance matters with regard to PC Youll’s actions in monitoring his surroundings.
‘Cleveland Police agreed with this finding and the officer received management action.’