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PSNI officer has emergency plastic surgery after dog attack, court told

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Botanic Avenue, the area where the policemen were attacked.

Botanic Avenue, the area where the policemen were attacked.

Botanic Avenue, the area where the policemen were attacked.

A police officer needed emergency plastic surgery after being bitten on the face by a dog in south Belfast, a court was told on Monday.

The animal also bit his colleague on the arm during the attack last month.

Details emerged as a judge blocked attempts to have its suspected owner charged with offences over the injuries inflicted.

According to police both officers were bitten after they stopped a man with a dog while on patrol at Botanic Avenue on December 29.

Michael John Gilbert appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court accused of two counts of assault on police, possessing herbal cannabis and resisting police.

The 31-year-old, of Castleton Gardens in the city, was also set to be charged with wounding and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

But defence lawyers argued there was insufficient evidence to connect him with either of those two offences.

The court heard Gilbert allegedly stated during interviews that the dog would protect him and he knew it would attack.

"He loosened the lead as soon as he saw police," a PSNI constable claimed.

Disclosing the level of injuries allegedly inflicted, she added: "One of the officers involved had to have emergency plastic surgery to the side of his face."

Gilbert's barrister, Aileen Smyth, insisted he could not face charges over the bite wounds as part of some joint enterprise with the dog.

"For an owner of any dog to state they knew the dog would protect them isn't out of the ordinary," she contended.

"The case that seems to be put forward by police, and alarmingly endorsed by the PPS (Public Prosecution Service), is that in the midst of a struggle with police a lead is let go of and a dog attacks."

The court was told Gilbert was also bitten by the dog during the incident.

Counsel said that charging her client with wounding and assault occasioning actual bodily harm "because of very, very unfortunate injuries suffered by these two officers is just so far away from the reality of this case that the court couldn't possibly endorse the connection".

Backing defence submissions, District Judge Fiona Bagnall said: "I would need to be satisfied there were active actions on the part of the defendant, which led the dog to be part of this incident."

She confirmed that Gilbert was not being connected to the counts of wounding or assault occasioning actual bodily harm at this stage.

Stressing those charges could still be reinstated in future, the judge called on police to provide any body-worn footage of the incident.

Meanwhile, Gilbert was remanded on bail for six weeks on the remaining charges against him.

Belfast Telegraph


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