Owner of dog that savaged Freddie the Seal will not face criminal charges

The top lawyer who was named as the owner of a dog that fatally savaged a seal will not face criminal charges for the incident.

The ten-month-old seal pup nicknamed 'Freddie Mercury' had become a regular sight in the area before being attacked by Rebecca Sabben-Clare QC's crossbreed dogs.

Freddie was found to have a fractured flipper and a dislocated joint, with veterinarians at South Essex Wildlife Hospital concluding the “only ethical and fair option” was to put him to sleep.

The leading commercial barrister told the Standard she wanted to “apologise unreservedly” for the “terrible accident” and has now been told she will not face criminal charges.

Local photographer Duncan Phillips was witness to the dog attack incident as he had been photographing Freddie as he basked on a slipway near Hammersmith Bridge.

But as he was moving around to get the perfect shot, Duncan told The Times, he saw the owner of a dog frantically chasing after her dog as it ran towards the seal.

“I heard someone shouting at their dog and the next thing I see is this dog going for the seal and locking it in its jaws," he said, "it was very savage.”

The dog owner, now identified as Rebecca Sabben-Clare, an Oxford-educated QC, reportedly looked “distraught” as she tried to prise her dog’s jaws off the stricken seal.

When she eventually did, it was unfortunately too late. A number of people reportedly made abusive remarks to Sabben-Clare, 49, as she left the scene with her dog.

Ms Rebecca Sabben-Clare has since issued a statement, saying: “As an animal lover, I fully understand the dismay that has been expressed. I apologise unreservedly for what happened. In hindsight, I wish, of course, that the dog had been on a lead but at the time that did not seem necessary.

  • Seal pup 'Freddie Mercury' dies after being viciously savaged in dog attack near Thames

“I am hugely grateful to all those who helped at the scene. They were heroic. I left for my own safety and that of my dog, believing that there was nothing that I could do to help as the seal was being looked after by a vet and help had been called. I offered my contact details to the vet before leaving.”

Sir Craig Oliver, the former director of politics and communications for David Cameron, lives locally. After the incident, he tweeted: “So sad to hear that the beautiful seal that took up residence near Hammersmith Bridge had to be put down after being savaged by a dog.”

Martin Garside, from the Port of London Authority, said there was “a growing problem” of dog attacks on swans, geese and other wildlife although the RSPCA says it had not had any reports of an increase in the number of dog attacks on seals.

A spokesperson for the BDMLR said it received “hundreds of calls per month” from members of the public who were concerned about seals, but it was impossible to know how many of the injuries had been caused by dogs.

  • 'Distraught' lawyer whose dog mauled Freddie the seal says sorry as it's put down

Lawyers for Ms Sabben-Clare have said both the RSPCA and police had told her no offence had been committed.

The Metropolitan Police said there would be no criminal action or further investigation taken by police.

A force spokesperson said: “Police have investigated the death of a seal after it was injured by a dog on the River Thames near Hammersmith Bridge.

“Officers attended the location at approximately 12.39hrs on Sunday, March 21 along with colleagues from the London Fire Brigade.

“Following the investigation, there will be no further criminal investigation or criminal action taken by police in regards to this matter.”

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