A junior league football coach punched an off-duty police officer after a dog attack in St Helens.
Timothy O’Hanlon was knocked to the ground and hit in the head by Michael Lever on the morning of November 6 last year. Mr. O’Hanlon had reprimanded Lever after two American bulldog puppies attacked his dog.
The attack occurred on a vacant lot near the Shires housing estate in St Helens. Liverpool Crown Court was told today that Mr O’Hanlon, a serving police officer, thought his dog was going to die in the incident.
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He later said, “I was honestly thinking they were going to kill him.” Paulinus Barnes of the prosecution described how Mr. O’Hanlon saw a couple coming out of the woods after the attack.
When he protested to the couple about the bulldogs, Lever became aggressive, the court was told. Barnes said Lever, 40, began to “bounce” around him and shoved him in the shoulder.
When Mr. O’Hanlon tried to see where the dogs were, he felt a blow to his leg causing him to fall. While he was on the ground, he felt a blow to the head that left a 7 cm laceration on his right cheek.
Lever, who was arrested after the attack, provided a written statement stating that he feared Mr. O’Hanlon had a knife and feared for his and his wife’s safety. He claimed that Mr. O’Hanlon was aggressive and retaliated in self-defense.
Mr. Barnes read an impact statement on behalf of Mr. O’Hanlon, who suffered a fractured eye socket in the attack. The statement revealed that the victim suffered from sleep problems after the attack and “emotional trauma.”
Mr. O’Hanlon was reluctant to leave his home and was forced to work from home on reduced hours after the assault. He saw four different consultants who told him that he was lucky not to have lost his sight.
Barnes told the court that Lever had prior convictions for assault, disorderly conduct, excess alcohol and possession with intent to supply ecstasy. The drug conviction was in 2000.
Matthew Buckland, a defense attorney, said his client was “repentant and appalled at the injury sustained.” He described the assault as a “single clenched fist strike” delivered “in the heat of the moment”.
He told the court that Lever played an important role in the Huyton Juniors football club. Mr Buckland referred in particular to the positive role Lever had in the club’s young players, teaching them important values such as discipline.
Lever, he said, had diffused ‘flash points’ and played a positive role on and off the field. Many parents of the club submitted letters of recommendation commending it to the court.
Mr. Buckland also said that Lever was a dedicated caregiver for a young son, who was suffering from a health condition. The court was also told that Lever was also a volunteer with The Bobby Colleran Trust, a charity set up to raise awareness of speed following the tragic 2014 death of 6-year-old Bobby de Huyton in West Derby.
Bobby Colleran’s mother had also submitted a reference letter to the court, the hearing said. Buckland told the court that Lever ran a successful window installation business.
Lever, of The Shires in St Helens, had previously pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm and to two counts of owning a dangerously out of control dog.
Registrar Graham Wells said he had decided not to send Lever to prison because of the impact it would have on other people. He gave Lever an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered him to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.
He ordered Lever to pay £3,000 in compensation to the victim. Mr. O’Hanlon had suffered a loss of income after the assault, the court was told.
Recorder Wells also told Lever that his American bulldogs must be kept on a leash when out in public. He said that if the dogs came off their leashes again, a court would consider ordering their destruction.