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Jailed pensioner refuses to help find danger dogs that left boy needing 300 stitches

Photo: Liverpool Echo Syndication

Lewis Barkley, 11, suffered horrific injuries when he and a friend, who cannot be named, were attacked in Speke, Liverpool, on June 24 this year.

Harrowing pictures of terrified Lewis, who suffered 17 bites requiring more than 300 stitches, were released by his family after his ordeal.

Fredrick Farnsworth, 73, of Stapleton Avenue, Speke, admitted two counts of being in charge of a dog which was dangerously out of control.

But the two Staffordshire Bull Terriers, which he claims he was walking for a man called Mark, have never been found.

Judge Gary Woodhall today said Farnsworth, a grandfather, showed "a complete lack of remorse" and told him:

You should hang your head in shame.

– Judge Gary Woodhall

Liverpool Crown Court heard Farnsworth denied perverting the course of justice by allegedly misleading police over the location of the dogs.

He was set to stand trial but prosecutors were forced to drop the charge after conceding there was not a realistic prospect of a conviction.

Farnsworth claimed he did not even know the names of the dogs - one black and one beige - owned by a man called Mark who is in jail.

Edmund Haygarth, prosecuting, said:

The Crown would say foolishly and irresponsibly he took them out into the park without collars and without leads.

– Edmund Haygarth

The two boys were playing football in a caged area, in a park off Stapleton Avenue, at around 5pm, when the beige dog ran over and jumped up. Witnesses Shane Oosthuizen and Megan Herbert, who were walking their three dogs, saw the children try to climb onto a raised area to escape.

Mr Haygarth said Lewis' friend was only bitten on his finger, but he was not so lucky, as the black dog joined the attack and they both savaged him. Farnsworth slowly ran over to intervene but it was heroic Mr Oosthuizen who dragged the dogs off Lewis, before other people came to help.

A policeman arrived and described Lewis "crying hysterically", shouting and screaming in "immense pain" and bleeding from his face and chest. He suffered 17 bites in total to his head, chest, back and legs, including four to the face.

Farnsworth said he took the dogs home and locked them in his garage before going back to the park, but when he returned with police, they had gone.

The OAP told officers he heard Lewis screaming "I think I'm going to die", but refused to name the two people he initially said owned the animals.

Mr Haygarth said:

The families' anger and I think the anger of much of the community at large is the fact the dogs are still out there.

– Edmund Haygarth

The court heard the incident left Lewis scarred for life and both he and his friend psychologically damaged and requiring counselling.

Farnsworth had 12 previous convictions for 19 offences, the last in 1999, mostly for dishonesty and driving matters, but also assaults in the 1960s.He used two crutches in the dock, which Jeremy Rawson, defending, said was the result of a hip replacement in August, and also has arthritis.

Mr Rawson said:

It was an offence brought about by his lack of foresight. He regrets it, he's upset about it and he's sorry.

– Jeremy Rawson

He said Farnsworth had parental responsibility for his 16 year-old grandson, but if he was jailed, his wife would look after the boy.

Judge Woodhall said a man of Farnsworth's age and ill health was never going to be able to control the dogs and by the time he intervened it was "too little, too late".

He said

You tell me through your advocate today you didn't even know the dogs' names. If that's right, it's clear you knew very little if anything about the temperament of those dogs. You had no ability to control them, particularly given their size and power.

– Judge Woodhall

The judge said Woodhall "had not heeded the earlier warning" when the dogs tore up the football and refused to help get them off the streets.

You claimed to not know where they had gone. I don't accept that. You know full well where those dogs are and you're refusing to assist the authorities in finding them.

What if it was your 16-year-old grandson? What message would it send to you and the public if the person responsible did nothing to ensure the dogs could be found?

– Judge Woodhall

Judge Woodhall noted that in a pre-sentence report Farnsworth said he would rather spend time in prison than place his grandson at risk by naming the dogs' owner.

He said: "It seems you're in effect condoning what happened - putting other members of the public at risk of serious injury."

The judge ordered the destruction of the dogs - which he said the owner was hiding from the authorities - and banned Farnsworth from keeping dogs indefinitely.

Unrepentant Farnsworth showed no emotion as he was jailed for 18 months.