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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Woman cleared of dog attack death
Jackie Simpson
Ms Simpson denied manslaughter through gross negligence

A woman accused over a fatal dog attack on her five-year-old granddaughter has been found not guilty of manslaughter.

Ellie Lawrenson was grabbed around the throat by the pit bull terrier at Jackie Simpson's home in Knowles House Avenue, St Helens, on New Year's Day.

The prosecution had said Ms Simpson, 45, was criminally negligent when she allowed the dog into the house.

Ms Simpson denied the charges and said she never thought the dog would attack Ellie, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Ellie suffered 72 injuries in the prolonged attack by her uncle Kiel Simpson's pit bull, Reuben.

The dog, which had been involved in two other attacks, locked its jaws around the child's throat and shook her.

Ellie Lawrenson
Ellie suffered severe head and neck injuries

Kiel Simpson, 24, was jailed for eight weeks at Liverpool Magistrates' Court in May after admitting owning a dog banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

During the trial, the prosecution said Ms Simpson, who had drunk two bottles of wine and smoked 10 cannabis joints prior to the attack, had broken a family rule by letting Reuben into the house while Ellie was there.

But Ms Simpson said she was not aware of such a ban.

The jury heard Ms Simpson was also charged with possession of heroin found in her home after police searched it following Ellie's death.

Neil Flewitt QC, for the prosecution, said it was not in the public interest to pursue the charge.

The court was also told Ms Simpson was jailed for 42 months in 1989 for heroin possession, but this was banned from being reported while the trial was ongoing.

'Strong emotions'

The judge, Mr Justice Royce, asked Neil Flewitt if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had ever considered a prosecution against Kiel Simpson for manslaughter.

He answered that officers in the investigation believed there was no realistic chance of conviction as Mr Simpson did not believe the dog had access to the little girl.

Hearing the verdict, Ms Simpson wiped her eyes.

Speaking to the jury, Mr Justice Royce said: "This is an unusual case which had given rise to very strong emotions.

Kiel Simpson
Kiel Simpson was jailed for owning a dangerous dog

"Suffice to say, the greatest sentence passed in this case is a life sentence of regret this lady has passed on herself."

Colin Davies, Assistant District Crown Prosecutor for Merseyside, said the jury had found Ms Simpson's actions did not make her criminally responsible for Ellie's death.

"There is no doubt - and it was accepted by the defence - that Jacqueline Simpson owed a duty of care towards her granddaughter," he said.

"However, the jury by its verdict have accepted that, if there was a breach of her duty of care it was not such that it amounted to a crime."

Asst Ch Con Helen King said: "We cannot allow Ellie Lawrenson to have died in vain.

"I would ask our communities to support the work we are doing to help prevent a child ever being killed or even harmed in this way again.

"Anyone who has information on where illegal dogs are being bred, who is supplying them or who is using these animals as part of their criminal lifestyles to call the police."

Footage of the pit bull that killed Ellie

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