Lewisham teenager found guilty of stabbing police dog Finn and injuring handler PC Dave Wardell in Stevenage
PUBLISHED: 14:40 11 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:10 12 May 2017
Danny Loo Photography 2016
A teenage boy who stabbed and almost killed a police dog while on the run in Stevenage has been found guilty of two offences by a district judge today.
District judge Joanne Matson announced the verdict at Stevenage Youth Court this afternoon after the boy from Lewisham – who cannot be named for legal reasons – was accused of assaulting PC Dave Wardell and causing criminal damage to PD dog Finn on October 5 last year.
In court, PC Wardell broke down and sobbed as he gave evidence – telling the district judge how his police dog was stabbed through the chest with ‘the biggest knife he’d ‘ever seen’.
Prosecuting, Joan Gandolfi told the court how the boy was attempting to get away from police in the town’s Denton Road.
PC Wardell shouted at him to stop but when he didn’t and started climbing over a wall, the dog handler instructed PD Finn to stop him.
Miss Gandolfi said PD Finn – a German shepherd who retired at the end of March – took hold of the suspect’s leg and pulled him back to the floor.
The boy had a knife in his hand and stabbed PD Finn through the chest, before swinging the knife again and bringing it down on the police dog’s head. In trying to deflect the blow, PC Wardell sreceived a 1cm wound to his knuckle.
The officer called for back up and picked up the bleeding dog, taking it to a police van nearby from where he was driven to a veterinary practice.
PC Wardell told the court he had been on duty with PD Finn when they received information about a suspect – who was believed to be armed – near the shops in Rockingham Way.
There were two firearms officers at the scene. PC Wardell and PC Finn began searching for the suspect and they came across him looking “panicked and out of breath”.
PC Wardell said he shouted to the suspect – who he believed was armed with a baton – to stop or he would unleash the dog, but the boy kept running.
He released PD Finn from his lead as it would be the only way to catch the suspect.
Going through a garden gate, the officer told the court he saw Finn on the other side of the gate and the suspect further away running towards a fence.
PD Finn then used his jaws to grab the boy’s lower left leg and pull him to the ground. The boy was lying on his elbows propped up against the fence and PC Wardell straddled the dog and was giving instructions about what the boy should do next when he reared up and stabbed the dog.
PC Wardell broke down when he described the suspect withdrawing the ‘biggest knife’ he had ‘ever seen’ from PD Finn’s chest.
He told the court: “I knew we were in mortal danger, I thought, ‘he’s just tried to kill my police dog and the next thing is me’.
“I thought ‘we’ve got to do something about this now or we’re not going home’.
“He did not comply. He continued to run and he had a weapon.”
Defence counsel Rebecca Bax had questioned whether PC Wardell had given sufficient warning to the boy that he would unleash the dog and suggested the officer had not caught up with the dog when the stabbing took place, a version of events that Judge Matson did not agree with.
Ms Bax had also claimed records showed the dog had had insufficient training during the previous year to be registered as a police dog, and therefore PC Wardell was acting outside the execution of his duty as a police officer.
Again this point was dismissed, with the boy found guilty for both offences.
The criminal damage 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.