Karma the dangerous American Pit Bull is in hiding from a death sentence while her owner begins a three-year ten-month jail term for his own towering temper.
Karma seized on a woman’s face when she visited the owner, Liam Michael Ryan Morris at his home in Belfast.
The dog suddenly locked onto the woman’s face as she sat on a couch, and the jaws had to be prised open. The attack put her in hospital and has left her with significant scarring, she told the Christchurch District Court sentencing session for 26-year-old Ryan-Morris.
When Ryan-Morris pleaded guilty to a list of violence charges shortly before his trial, an order was made for Karma’s destruction but the dog has never been found.
Judge Jane Farish told him today: “If you know where Karma is, it is in your interests to notify the authorities. She is not safe within the community, and it is not fair on the dog for her to be in that position.”
The court heard victim impact statements from three women left with physical and emotional damage from Ryan-Morris’ offending, mostly fuelled by alcohol and methamphetamine – a habit he has apparently dealt with while on remand.
The judge referred to a psychological report on his anger issues, which are said to arise from the violence, manipulation, and abuse he experienced in his childhood. The risk remains high if he feels he or his relationship is threatened, and if he is under the influence of alcohol or methamphetamine.
However, the risk will be lowered if he does undergoes treatment and programmes during his prison term, and abstains from alcohol and drugs.
Judge Farish said she was “surprised and relieved” that Ryan-Morris had done so well while on bail. The sentencing recognised that he was “on the cusp of change” and he had courageously come to court knowing that he would be jailed, and delivering his own apology to his victims.
He said from the dock that he wanted this to be the last time anyone had to face “anything like this”, and told the women: “I’m sorry.”
He had pleaded guilty to 12 charges of threatening to kill, assaults, injuring, and owning a dog that attacked a person.
One victim was his former partner who was repeatedly punched, kicked, and threatened with a loaded firearm. At least twice, she thought she was going to be killed. She was forced to get money for Ryan-Morris, and was beaten once for changing her bank account.
The woman neighbour who heard the violence and repeatedly called the police or noise control officials about loud music at 3am, was repeatedly threatened with being shot and had to move houses. She still has an injured arm from being bitten during a cross-fence dispute with Ryan-Morris when his dog bit her. No charge was laid for that.
The third woman was bitten on the face during a visit to the house in March 2016. She said she had seen Ryan-Morris up to 10 times since then and he had never shown any remorse but had only been interested in whether she was going to make a complaint. Her facial scar would never fade completely.
Judge Farish said all three women had been left physically and emotional damaged by Ryan-Morris’ offending, including having issues with anxiety and depression. All might have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ryan-Morris is now with another partner who is pregnant with his child – he is already a father from a previous relationship. He was unable to pay any meaningful reparations to the victim of the dog attack because he had used whatever savings he had to set his present partner up for his time in prison.
After he was jailed for three years ten months with a series of concurrent sentences, he called to another man in the back of the court: “Look after my girl.”