A dad has been jailed for four years after his dog violently attacked his 12-day-old newborn to death. Steven Joynes, 36, appeared for sentencing after pleading guilty to being in charge of a dangerously out of control dog causing injury resulting in death.
Elon Jase Ellis-Joynes was attacked by the family dog as he lay on a sofa in the living room at his home in Doncaster. At the time, Joynes was outside in the garden while Elon’s mother, Abigail Ellis, had left the room to go to the toilet.
Charges against the mother have previously been dropped. Sheffield Crown Court heard how the dog had previously bitten another child in the family, and Joynes was seen “hitting” and “kicking” out at it when it misbehaved, Yorkshire Live reports.
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The court heard that Ms Ellis had three other children with a previous partner who died three years ago. Richard Thyne, prosecuting, said she had started a relationship with Joynes, who moved into her home de ella on Welfare Road, Woodlands, Doncaster, and brought him a Chow Chow-Alsatian cross called Teddy.
He told the court Joynes had bought the dog in 2019 as a gift for his ex-partner’s daughter, but he took over ownership of Teddy when “it became apparent they couldn’t cope” with him.
Mr Thyne said that in April 2020, five months before the fatal incident, Ms Ellis went to a GP with her son, who had a bite wound on his right thigh. The doctor was told that the boy had been bitten by a stray dog, but he revealed in a police interview after Elon’s death that in fact, it had been Teddy that bit him, the court heard.
Mr Thyne said: “He said his mum and stepdad were present when this happened, and Joynes had smacked Teddy as a result. The prosecution says this is significant for two reasons. Firstly, Teddy had previously bitten one of the other children and, secondly, Steven Joynes was aware of that fact.”
The Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said neighbors had “heightened their fences to stop him jumping into their gardens”. Elon had received between 30 and 40 puncture wounds as well as a cut to his abdomen.
Mr Thyne said when the family returned home on the afternoon of Elon’s death, the newborn was pushed into the living room in his pram. He told the court Ms Ellis went upstairs to use the toilet “urgently” while Joynes played in the garden with the children.
Mr Thyne said that one of Ms Ellis’s sons noticed the dog was missing and went into the house to investigate. The court heard the boy found Teddy standing growling over baby Elon, who was lying on the floor.
A post-mortem report found Elon died as a result of severe trauma to his chest and abdomen with injuries “typical of having been repeatedly bitten by a dog”. The court heard Ms Ellis made a “distressed” 999 call and paramedics attended the house, finding Elon pale in color and with puncture wounds to his torso. He was taken to Doncaster Royal Infirmary but tragically died that afternoon.
Mr Thyne told the court: “The defendant and Ms Ellis in interview said he had been left safely in his pram, but the prosecution case is that he must in fact have been placed on the sofa.” He said the pathologist “would have expected to see head and neck injuries” if the baby had been in his pram, and scientific evidence showed there was blood staining on the floor and sofa, but not in the pram.
The court heard a dog behavior expert’s conclusion was that the dog caused Elon’s injuries “while investigating what was, to the dog, a strange object”. Ms Ellis had said in a police interview that Teddy “became excited when he first saw the baby”, Mr Thyne said.
Edward Moss, mitigating, said Joynes had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following his son’s death and was having counselling. He said: “What punishment could anyone give to this man that is greater than the punishment he has already been given, and he will have him for the rest of his life?”
Judge Jeremy Richardson said the attack was “a tragedy waiting to happen” as he sentenced Joynes for four years. He told the defendant: “You knew the dog was unmanageable and had vicious characteristics. You had made no attempt to socialize the dog with children. All you did was kick and hit the dog, and put it outside. You took no effective steps to protect any of the children, least of all your 12-day-old infant son.”
The court heard the dog had been put down following the incident. Joynes is obliged to serve half of his sentence in custody before he is released on license – he was also disqualified from keeping a dog for 15 years.
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