Owner or person in charge of a dog dangerously out of control in any place in England or Wales (whether or not a public place) where death is caused

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, s. 3(1)
Effective from: 01 July 2016

Owner or person in charge of a dog dangerously out of control in any place in England or Wales (whether or not a public place) where death is caused Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (section 3 (1))

Triable either way Maximum: 14 years’ custody

Offence range: High level community order – 14 years’ custody

User guide for this offence



In accordance with section 120 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the Sentencing Council issues this definitive guideline. It applies to all offenders aged 18 and older, who are sentenced on or after 1 July 2016, regardless of the date of the offence.

Section 125(1) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 provides that when sentencing offences committed after 6 April 2010: 

“Every court –
(a) must, in sentencing an offender, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the offender’s case, and

(b) must, in exercising any other function relating to the sentencing of offenders, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the exercise of the function,

unless the court is satisfied that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so.” This guideline applies only to offenders aged 18 and older.

Structure, ranges and starting points

For the purposes of section 125(3)-(4) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the guideline specifies offence ranges – the range of sentences appropriate for each type of offence. Within each offence, the Council has specified a number of categories which reflect varying degrees of seriousness. The offence range is split into category ranges – sentences appropriate for each level of seriousness. The Council has also identified a starting point within each category.

Starting points define the position within a category range from which to start calculating the provisional sentence. The court should consider further features of the offence or the offender that warrant adjustment of the sentence within the range,including the aggravating and mitigating factors set out at step two. Starting points and ranges apply to all offenders, whether they have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trial. Credit for a guilty plea is taken into consideration only at step four in the decision making process, after the appropriate sentence has been identified.

Step 1 – Determining the offence category

In order to determine the category the court should assess culpability and harm. The court should determine the offence category with reference only to the factors in the tables below. The level of culpability is determined by weighing up all the factors of the case. Where there are characteristics present which fall under different levels of culpability, the court should balance these characteristics to reach a fair assessment of the offender’s culpability.

CULPABILITY demonstrated by one or more of the following:

A – High culpability

  • Dog used as a weapon or to intimidate people
  • Dog known to be prohibited
  • Dog trained to be aggressive
  • Offender disqualified from owning a dog, or failed to respond to official warnings, or to comply with orders concerning the dog

B – Medium culpability

All other cases where characteristics for categories A or C are not present, and in particular:

  • Failure to respond to warnings or concerns expressed by others about the dog’s behaviour
  • Failure to act on prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive behaviour
  • Lack of safety or control measures taken in situations where an incident could reasonably have been foreseen
  • Failure to intervene in the incident (where it would have been reasonable to do so)
  • Ill treatment or failure to ensure welfare needs of the dog (where connected to the offence and where not charged separately)

C – Lesser culpability

  • Attempts made to regain control of the dog and/or intervene
  • Provocation of the dog without fault of the offender
  • Evidence of safety or control measures having been taken
  • Incident could not have reasonably been foreseen by the offender
  • Momentary lapse of control/attention


There is no variation in the level of harm caused, as by definition the harm involved in an offence where a death is caused is always of the utmost seriousness.