Boy, 4, was '1cm from death' after XL bully dog attack

Stacey Smith was sentenced having pleaded guilty to being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control causing injury. (Reach)
Stacey Smith was sentenced having pleaded guilty to being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control causing injury. (Reach)

A four-year-old boy will "never have a normal childhood" after he was savaged by an XL bully, causing "catastrophic facial injuries" which left him 1cm from death, a court heard.

The dog, called Nola, had been at the home of Stacey Smith, 32, in Norris Green, Liverpool. The dog, which belonged to her then-partner, had been there for 10 days when it attacked the boy in the front garden in August last year.

Helen Chenery, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that the victim, who lived on the same street, had been around Smith's home several times that day to see if her son was there. However, on a further visit, the dog burst out of the open front door and latched its jaws around his head.

Chenery told the court that the boy's mother, who was walking behind him, started screaming and "ragging" the dog to get it off her stricken son.

Neighbour Mirislava Zaloudakova pulled back the dog’s neck and prised it away, forcing it towards the back garden.

The court heard Smith stood inside her home throughout the attack, dressed only in a towel. She was said to have been in a "panic".

Front close up view of an XL bully dog
A file image of an XL bully dog. (PA)

'Danger to our communities': Read more

The court was told the boy had a right temporal depressed fracture along with multiple facial lacerations. He needed a muscle graft to repair the most severe injuries. All the scarring will be permanent, though it is expected to fade over time. He is also continuing to suffer with severe headaches and flashbacks.

The boy's parents, who were both in court, left the room while photos of his injuries were shown, while Smith sat with her head in her hands.

In a victim impact statement, the boy’s mother said: “The dog's tooth punctured his head. Medics told us if it had gone 1cm deeper then he would be dead."

She said her son "won't have a normal childhood" because of the attack and he has been bullied at school due to the injuries.

Smith outside court. (Reach)
Smith outside court. (Reach)

"He is just not the same child he used to be, both psychologically and physically. He cries out in his sleep 'get the dog away from me'.

"He continues to suffer both physically and mentally… It is heartbreaking for us. Every time I close my eyes I can see the attack and I am reliving it. I feel sick and wish it was me."

The dog was seized by police and euthanised.

Chenery said Smith - who earlier this year pleaded guilty to being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control causing injury - had no convictions and was of previous good character, but that she "failed to intervene" during the attack.

'You should never have been in charge of the dog'

In mitigation, defence barrister Daniel Travers admitted Smith was not a "robust person" and did not make the best choices. However, he told the court she would not have allowed the dog to be around her son if she had any suspicion it would be dangerous, adding “nothing could have been foreseen" about the incident.

Judge David Aubrey told the court: "There has been much public debate regarding dogs of this breed, if it be a breed.

"It is not for this court to comment on issues raised in public debate. This court is to apply the relevant law." He noted that although the XL bully is not yet banned, it is "prone to unpredictability".

Addressing Smith, he said: "In my judgement, you should never have been in charge of the dog. However, in my judgement the fault may lie elsewhere."

Smith was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. She will have to carry out 20 rehabilitation days and 60 hours' unpaid work as well as pay a surcharge.

Judge Aubrey told her: "If not for the courageous intervention of others [the dog] may not have simply left a trail of destruction, it would have been a trail of fatalities. I hope the young boy now continues to make progress in the forthcoming months."

Smith, who burst into tears when she heard her fate, hugged the dock officer before leaving the courtroom.

Liverpool Crown Court. (Reach)
Liverpool Crown Court. (Reach)

'Danger to our communities'

Following a spate of attacks involving XL bully dogs this month, Rishi Sunak announced a ban of the breed will be brought into law by the end of this year.

Early in September, a 60-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possessing a dog dangerously out of control after two men and an 11-year-old girl were injured by an XL bully crossbreed which was out of control in Birmingham.

Separately, Ian Price, a 52 year old man from Staffordshire, died in hospital after being attacked by two XL bullies.

On Thursday, the prime minister said XL bully dogs need to be banned because they are a “danger to our communities”.

But Sunak would not be drawn on whether plans to ban the breed would be enough to prevent further harm caused by the dogs.

Under the ban, owners could be required to neuter their dogs and muzzle them in public, the government’s chief vet has suggested.