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Woman jailed over savage dog attack on 12 children

Claire Neal, 39, left her dog unsecured even though it was known to be dangerous. Credit: Northumbria Police

A woman has been jailed after allowing a dangerous dog that had already bitten children to escape into a playground and stage a terrifying attack on 12 youngsters.

Claire Neal, 39, left her brown and white Staffordshire bull terrier in her front yard, where it was able to escape into the road in Blyth, Northumberland.

The dog, named Marley, was already subject to a destruction order as it had attacked children on two previous occasions.

It was found without a muzzle or collar by a teenager who planned to take it to the RSPCA. But it went wild after seeing children in a park and ran inside the play area before jumping on kids and biting them.

Statements from the children were read out, with one girl saying she fainted after the dog closed its jaws on her during the attack in May 2016.

Another child said he saw a girl being dragged by the dog while screaming. One parent described their child's leg as looking like "Swiss cheese", full of puncture holes and a big gash.

A total of 12 children were treated for puncture wounds, with three needing to remain in hospital overnight.

The playground where the attack took place. Credit: Google Earth

Neal, 39, initially denied owning a dog that was dangerously out of control, arguing that the destruction order meant the animal belonged to the courts.

However, after a trial was aborted part way through, she changed her plea to guilty just before a second trial commenced.

Jailing her for four years, Judge Sarah Mallett said it was a "sustained and repeated attack" and that Neal's actions were "utterly irresponsible on every level".

She said she had failed to put in place any control measures and the dog had been trained to be aggressive by Neal's partner.

"It was ridiculous to suggest Marley was not your dog, you were the owner and responsible for her at all times," she said.

"It's clear from these descriptions there was serious injuries but it is also clear there was significant psychological harm."

In addition to the jail sentence, Neal was also disqualified from owning a dog for life.

The dog has since been destroyed.