Michael Thornton, 27, failed to turn up to Maidstone Crown Court last month for sentencing following his conviction for owning a dog which attacked the toddler on April 4 last year
A dog owner said by a judge to have ‘not had the guts’ to turn up to court following a savage attack in which a toddler was horrifically mauled and scalped is finally behind bars.
Michael Thornton went on the run on the day he was expected to be sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court in Kent last month.
Thornton, 27, had admitted being the owner of a dog which caused injury while dangerously out of control in a public place.
The court heard the animal, which was a banned pitbull-type, clamped its jaws on the head of the 18-month-old girl as she played in a park in Jenkins Dale, Chatham, Kent, with her sister on April 4 last year.
The dog, called Max, was being walked by a 15-year-old girl at the time. She had been paid to do so with cannabis by Thornton and his girlfriend Hayley Eldridge.
Eldridge, a 29-year-old mother of three from Chatham admitted the same charge, as well as one of perjury. She was jailed for a total of 25 months when she appeared in court for sentencing on October 10.
Thornton from Chatham was jailed in his absence for two years by Judge David Griffith-Jones QC, who also issued a warrant for his arrest.
Michael Thornton (left) and Hayley Eldridge (right) both from Chatham are pictured at Maidstone Crown Court today. The pair have denied being owners of a dog which caused injury to an 18-month-old
Police finally caught up with him yesterday and brought him to court to appear before Judge Griffith-Jones.
Thornton admitted failing to surrender during yesterday’s hearing. The court heard that Thornton had failed to appear for several previous court hearings.
He was ordered to serve an addition 28 days on top of the existing two-year sentence for absconding.
The judge told him although he had again ‘deliberately tried to delay justice’, a lengthy sentence was not necessary.
The police covered up the pitbull cross dog in Holcombe road
‘You didn’t have the guts to turn up to your sentencing hearing on October 10. This was deliberate behaviour on your part, your attempt to delay the inevitable day of reckoning,’ said Judge Griffith-Jones.
‘In light of your failure to attend it is important to mark that failure by an additional term of imprisonment. But I don’t feel it necessary to impose a particularly lengthy term.
‘I impose the shortest term I feel I properly can in all the circumstances, and these circumstances include your appalling record of numerous failings to surrender and failures to comply with other court orders. That is a susbstantial aggravating factor.’
Thornton will serve half his total jail term less 26 days spent on tagged curfew.
The court heard on a previous occasion that the dog had been repeatedly struck in its face with a chain by the teenager shortly before it attacked the toddler.
Thornton, left, and his girlfriend, Hayley Eldridge, right, paid a 15-year-old girl in cannabis to take their illegal pitbull dog for a walk in Chatham, Kent, in April 2017 when it attacked the toddler and left her with life changing injuries requiring reconstructive surgery
Her injuries were so severe that she faces years of surgery. Her scalp could not be re-attached and her skull has been left exposed until she is old enough for a skin graft.
The dog, described as aggressive by people living in the area, had to be shot by police marksmen at the scene. Tests later revealed it to be a banned breed under the Dangerous Dog Act.
It had only been owned by Thornton and Eldridge for six days and they told police they thought it was a Staffordshire bull terrier cross.
The perjury offence related to Eldridge lying during a family court hearing that she was not facing a charge over the dangerous dog.
Thornton, pictured outside Maidstone Crown Court in August failed to show up last month for his sentencing hearing
The teenager who walked the dog pleaded guilty at a hearing in the youth court in October last year. She was handed a 12-month supervision order and ordered to carry out 150 hours’ unpaid work.
The court on that occasion heard a victim impact statement from the toddler’s father in which he spoke of how the incident had ‘changed my family’s life forever’.
He said: ‘I’m angry, I’m very angry. My little girl does not deserve what has happened to her.
‘I do not understand how and why this happened to my little girl. I do not understand how the owners have let this happen, how did they let this happen to my little girl?
‘We have years of hospital visits when we should be taking our daughter to children’s parties.’
WHAT IS THE DANGEROUS DOG ACT?
The 1991 Dangerous Dog Act makes it an offence for an owner to allow any dog ‘to be dangerously out of control’.
Breeds banned by the act are the: pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino, fila Brasileiro.
In 2014, sentencing guidelines in England and Wales were changed to raise the maximum jail sentence for a fatal dog attack from two years to 14.
In 2014 the law was also amended to include incidents on private property