'Defendant's evidence was not credible or truthful' – District judge explains guilty verdict for teenage boy who stabbed police dog Finn in Stevenage
PUBLISHED: 16:43 11 May 2017 | UPDATED: 16:43 11 May 2017
The district judge presiding over the trial of a teenager who stabbed a police dog in Stevenage said she did not find the defendant’s evidence ‘credible or truthful’.
The 16-year-old from Lewisham was on trial at Stevenage Youth Court, where he was convicted of assaulting police officer Dave Wardell and stabbing PD Finn on October 5 last year after a chase in Denton Road.
Giving her verdict, Judge Matson said she was unconvinced by the boy’s claim that he was acting in self-defence when he stabbed PD Finn through the chest with a 12 inch combat knife.
The court heard how PC Wardell had been chasing the boy – who cannot be named for legal reasons – as it was believed he had committed an offence and was armed.
The officer, who broke down while giving evidence, only released PD Finn to chase him after repeatedly warning the boy to stop.
The German shepherd – who retired from duty at the end of March – then grabbed the suspect’s leg in his jaws to stop him escaping over a fence.
Judge Matson said she believed PC Wardell’s account that the boy was on the ground and PC Wardell was straddling the dog and holding him by the collar when the suspect lunged at him and stabbed him in the chest with the ‘biggest knife’ he had ‘ever seen’.
The boy then stabbed the dog a second time in the head, wounding PC Wardell in the hand in the process.
The district judge dismissed the teenager’s account that PC Wardell was not with the dog when it attacked him and that stabbing the dog was ‘reasonable’ because he feared he might get ‘bitten up’.
She also dismissed defence counsel Rebecca Bax’s claim that PD Finn had not received enough training over the previous 12 months to be considered a police dog and therefore that PC Wardell should not have taken him on active duty.
Judge Matson told the court: “PC Wardell gave very emotional evidence today and was clearly very distressed by what happened on that day, and still is.”
She said this distress accounted for some differences in evidence given by PC Wardell between his initial statement to police and today’s account in court.
She added: “I accept his explanation and I found him to be very honest and believable.
“I accept the evidence that Finn received regular training as a police dog. I find that Finn was acting as a police dog on the day and PC Wardell was acting in the execution of his duty.”
Referring to the suspect, she said: “He accepted that he wanted to get away at all costs because he was carrying a knife.
“He accepts he knew Finn was a police dog and that he knew he may be released if he did not stop. Despite that, he ran away.
“He initially told me that PC Wardell was not present when he stabbed the dog, and only on being cross examined did he accept he may have been there earlier than he initially said.
“I do not find his evidence to be credible or truthful. His evidence does not add up.
“Stabbing a dog you know to be a police dog and lunging a knife at a police officer were not necessarily proportionate. I therefore accept the evidence of PC Wardell in its entirety.”
The teenager was found guilty of two offences – assault and criminal damage. The latter offence relates to PD Finn, and prompted the Finn’s Law campaign which has called for police animals to be recognised in the court of law.
The suspect will be sentenced at Bromley Magistrates’ Court on June 6.
He has been bailed with a curfew to his home address and ordered not to enter Hertfordshire.