Police dog bites cost forces thousands in compensation

police dog
Image caption Police chiefs say dogs are a "valuable and essential resource"

Police forces across the UK have paid out a total of £770,000 in compensation to people bitten by police dogs in the past three years, the BBC has found.

One bite during a chase led to a payout of almost £49,000, Radio 4's You and Yours discovered.

That is more than the cost of employing two junior constables for a year and comes as police budgets face a 20% cut.

Police chiefs said dogs were an essential resource and training of them was being constantly improved.

According to information obtained through Freedom of Information requests, Greater Manchester Police paid the most compensation of any force, a total of more than £180,000.

The Metropolitan Police had the second highest total, paying out £95,000.

Forty-three forces provided a breakdown of their figures by the type of person bitten. Between them, 2,725 suspects were bitten, along with 196 police staff and 155 other members of the public.

Eight police forces reported more than 100 dog bites over the last three years.

West Midlands Police recorded the highest number of dog bites, with 644 reported incidents.

Pensioner Brian Kiddell was bitten on his allotment in Chessington, in Surrey, and is still waiting for his compensation claim to be settled.

He said: "Suddenly police officers were there with a loud hailer saying there is a police dog loose on the site.

"Next thing I knew this Alsatian had his teeth in my ankle and just held on.

"There was a police helicopter overhead so no-one could hear my cries. It's the most frightening experience I ever had in my life."

The police were chasing the driver of a stolen car when the dog attacked Mr Kiddell.

Mr Kiddell was treated at hospital and his leg has been scarred. He has been offered £4,000 in compensation but has turned it down saying he deserves more.

"They were very apologetic and bought me a bottle of Baileys. But the sum offered is not enough.

"I used to work settling personal injury claims so I would think an adequate level would be around £10,000.

"Even though this is public money why should it be any different than if it was a neighbour's dog that bit me."

The Metropolitan police have refused to comment on the incident but said they had more police dogs than any other force, with 200 dogs in service.

Boy bitten

Greater Manchester, which paid out the most in compensation, has 58 dogs.

One of their payouts was for £49,000. It was for an incident that happened during a chase, when the dog was distracted by noises in the area. No action was taken against the dog or the handler.

West Yorkshire Police paid nearly £15,000 in compensation and costs to a suspect they were chasing.

Cheshire Police paid £10,000 to a 13-year-old boy bitten on the back, who had a phobia of dogs, while Durham Police paid £7,000 to someone who was bitten while running past an off-duty police officer out exercising his police dog.

And Kent Police paid £63.03 in compensation for a ripped jacket.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) lead on police dogs, Assistant Chief Constable Nick Ingram, said: "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.

"Working with dogs does bring with it different challenges.

"The Acpo Police Dog Working Group seeks to ensure that optimum performance is achieved from these valuable resources and that the training, deployment and management of dogs is constantly improved, devised and developed whilst maintaining the highest standards of professionalism and welfare."

Hear the full report on You and Yours on Monday 14 March at 1200 GMT.

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