Mother and son sentenced following fatal dog attack

A mother and son have been sentenced to 10 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, following a dog attack in Netherton last year.

Rachel Walshe, 69, of Netherton, was sentenced after pleading guilty to Being the owner/person in charge of a dog dangerously out of control causing injury resulting in death. She was issued with an indefinite Dog Disqualification Order.

Her son Brian Walshe, 41, also of Netherton, was sentenced after also pleading guilty to Being the owner/person in charge of a dog dangerously out of control causing injury resulting in death. He was issued with a five-year Dog Disqualification Order.

Both were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday, 23 May.

At around 5.45pm on Friday, 18 August 2023, Merseyside Police received reports that Marie Stevens, 40, had been bitten to the arms and legs by two Rottweiler dogs on Park Lane West.

Police officers gave Ms Stevens first aid until an ambulance arrived and took her to hospital, where she was treated and later discharged.

On Sunday, 3 September, police were called by the North West Ambulance Service to Ms Stevens’ home in Brighton-le-Sands, to a report she had collapsed and sadly died.

A post-mortem determined the primary cause of death was a pulmonary embolism. Destruction orders were issued for both dogs. The defendants will each pay kennel fees of £3892.

Victim Personal Statements were read to the court from Marie Stevens’ husband, family and best friend.

Her husband said, “Marie loved animals, especially dogs, our dog Max died a year ago and I know that’s why she would have wanted to say hello to them dogs. That’s what makes the way she died even harder to come to terms with.

“Marie and I were together for 20 years. The day she died my life disappeared in a second. Everything I knew and loved gone. I can still see her lying on the floor in our home. I knew immediately she was gone, I could tell by the colour of her skin. Now that’s all I see. No matter what I’m doing or where I am that vision is always there. I can’t get it out of my head.”

Senior Crown Prosecutor Elizabeth Pearson said, “This is an incredibly sad case. Marie Stevens, an animal lover who adored dogs, died as a result of trying to stroke them.

“Brian and Rachel Walshe clearly did not intend for this tragedy to happen but they admitted that neither of their dogs had been to dog training classes or any professional behaviour training and that neither wears a muzzle in public.

“Yet, on that day they were dangerously out of control and their owners could not regain control of them for some time. In the meantime, the dogs savaged Marie Stevens – injuries that she never fully recovered from.

“Her subsequent death has brought tragedy to her family and devastation. The Crown Prosecution Service would like to thank the family of Mrs Stevens for their help in bringing this prosecution and the witnesses.

“It’s hoped this dreadful case will remind all dog owners that it is essential that their dogs are trained to behave safely in public and that they are under control at all times. If this isn’t the case, the results can be catastrophic.”

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Constable Peter Williams said, “This was a tragic case in which Marie Stevens was attacked by two dangerous dogs, neither of which was in the control of Brian or Rachel Walshe. Their recklessness led to Marie suffering from serious injuries and led, ultimately, to her death. Marie’s family and friends have been left devastated by this avoidable tragedy.

“In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Brian Walshe took both dogs from the scene and was later stopped and arrested by patrols on Marine Drive.

“This callous behaviour, added to the matter coming to trial, has undoubtedly added to the suffering of Marie’s family, who have shown great strength and dignity throughout.

“We can only hope that this case gives a stark warning to dog owners about keeping animals under control in public places. We will act on all information provided on suspected irresponsible dog ownership. Failing to keep your dog under control can lead to the worst outcome imaginable.”

Call 999 if a dog is posing an immediate threat to the safety of the public, or pass other information via @Merpol CC or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

You can also report other concerns about dogs via your local authority.

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