Wrexham woman struck police officer with dog bowl in doorstep scuffle

Reporter:

Geraint Jones

A woman struck a police officer with a plastic dog bowl during an incident at her home. 

Jemma Griffiths, 36, also threatened to set her bulldog on PC Stephen Sayer and Dylan Williams, a warrant officer who had gone to install a prepayment meter at her home in Cheshire View, Brymbo, on September 25.

PC Sayer had been called to assist Mr Williams after Griffiths had been verbally abusive and threatened to set her dog on him.

Rhian Jackson, prosecuting at Wrexham Magistrates Court yesterday, said Mr Williams had previously tried to gain entry to the house but Griffiths was hostile and let her dog loose so he had to leave.

He returned shortly after 9am on September 25 with a dog handler and a locksmith, the court heard.

Griffiths was immediately abusive and threatened to set the dog on Mr Williams, who called the police.

PC Sayer approached the house, where Griffiths was shouting and swearing, continuing to do so after he tried to explain why they were called.

He requested assistance and noticed that Griffiths’ teenage daughter was recording events on a tablet from inside the house.

Enforcement devices were put on the garden in the hope that Griffiths would open the door, Mrs Jackson added.  

PC Sayer knocked on the door and there was no answer, but returned when he heard a voice.

Griffiths repeated her threat to let the dog out before she opened the door, pointed her finger and tried to push PC Sayer off the doorstep.

PC Sayer took hold of Griffiths’ arm and she tried to pull back into the house, but the officer kept hold and they both went inside. 

Griffiths then told her daughter to “let Jessie go” – which he interpreted as telling her to let go of the dog.

PC Sayer then saw a bulldog which began to walk towards him, before Griffiths picked up a plastic dog bowl and hit him in the ear.

He then sprayed her and she dropped the bowl.

The officer than tried to detain Griffiths, asking her to stop struggling, but she did not.

Another officer attended and Griffiths was detained.

PC Sayer sustained a small lump behind his ear and some reddening to it.

Griffiths, who appeared from custody and was visibly emotional throughout the hearing, pleaded guilty to assaulting a constable in the execution of duty and obstructing an officer exercising powers of entry.

She also admitted failing to attend court on September 11.  

Melissa Griffiths, defending, said the offence was committed against the background of mental health issues that Griffiths had suffered in recent weeks.

She had not left her house since someone moved nearby, which brought back memories of something that happened in her past, and she had found it hard to come to terms with that.

The fact that Griffiths’ mental health was so fragile was why she had failed to attend court the previous day, and not out of disrespect, Miss Griffths added. 

The assault was not sustained or repeated, and Griffiths had panicked when she saw the officer moving towards her daughter, who had been filming the incident on an iPad.

She picked the first thing to hand and struck the officer in the head with it.

Miss Griffiths said she did not wish to minimise the incident in any way and the officer clearly had a warrant to gain entry, adding she thought matters had got “drastically out of hand on the day”.

Griffiths had tried to negotiate with British Gas, but they did not engage with her, the court heard.

The assault took place because Griffiths had become upset that they wanted to gain access to the property, Miss Griffiths said.

She took issue with the prosecution assertion that  hitting the officer with a dog bowl  constituted the use of a weapon.

Clearly it was an object, but it had to be taken in some context, she added.

Griffiths, magistrates heard, had always kept herself out of trouble – apart from two cautions some years ago – and had worked in the care sector for 20 years.

However she had not been able to work for the last few weeks because of mental health difficulties.

The dog had never bitten anyone and its undershot jaw meant that it would have difficulty doing so, Miss Griffiths said, but her client understood that the police would not have known that

Probation officer Rachel Woodcock said: “She has shown remorse and she accepts she has dealt with the matter in an inappropriate way.

“It is evident she is suffering some form of mental ill-health.

“She has been unable to step outside of her home. She has isolated herself to the extent that she is almost unable to let family members into her home.

“Ms Griffiths tells me she has been trying to move away from the area but due to current matters she has been served an eviction notice for four weeks time.

“She tells me she has been a care assistant for 20 years and still holds this position – her GP signed her off with anxiety and stress.

“There are no alcohol or drug misuse issues. She is in a good relationship and her boyfriend does all the shopping as she is unable to leave the house.”

Paul Rutt, chairman of the magistrates, told Griffiths: “I have a great deal of sympathy with your situation and it is clear you need help.

“Us punishing you with a community order or a financial penalty isn’t going to help.

“Even though it is way outside our guidelines, we’re going to deal with this matter by way of a conditional discharge.

“Our reason is we’ve taken the view that your mental health has exacerbated this crime – you wouldn't have done it otherwise.”

Griffiths was handed a 12-month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge as well as £80 compensation.

Email:

geraint.jones@nwn.co.uk

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