A dog owner whose Staffordshire Bull Terriers mauled a Cockapoo to death and nearly bit off a woman's finger was spared jail.
Julie Huyton, 40, was walking her beloved pet Bailey in Netherton when three dogs ran at them and launched a vicious attack.
She intervened in a desperate bid to save her one-year-old crossbreed and one of the Staffies sunk its teeth into her hand.
Bailey, described by his owner as a "big softy who would never hurt anyone", died before Ms Huyton could get him to a vet.
Following an appeal in the ECHO in 2018, the owner of the Staffies - 31-year-old Paul Leguen - was arrested and charged.
Leguen, who lied to police and claimed to have an alibi, finally admitted responsibility on the opening day of a trial last month.
But he walked free from Liverpool Crown Court today after a judge said sending him to jail would significantly harm his children.
Ms Huyton saw two men with three dogs in Pinfold Woods, off Northern Perimeter Road, at 6.45pm on Saturday, October 10, 2018.
Graham Pickavance, prosecuting, said she heard one of the men shout "no" as the dogs ran over and another yell: "Get him, quick."
Two of the Staffies leapt on Bailey, "biting its neck", while the third jumped around and Ms Huyton tried to rescue her pet.
Mr Pickavance said: "In the process she had her right middle finger bitten twice, causing the tip to virtually hang off."
She remembered one man calling a Staffy "Jess" and felt he was unable to control any of the dogs.
The two men fled and Ms Huyton took Bailey straight to a vets in her car, but by the time they arrived, he was already dead.
The victim attended Aintree Hospital and was transferred to Whiston Hospital to undergo plastic surgery to repair her finger.
Her partner made enquiries on Facebook and police went to Leguen's home in Netherton on October 25.
They seized two Staffies named Jess and Meek from the back garden.
When Leguen was interviewed five days later, he denied being involved and gave an alibi.
But he was picked out by Ms Huyton in an identity parade on November 11.
Officers visited his home again on December 30 that year, when they removed a third dog, Rocky.
Leguen claimed Rocky belonged to his brother, but officers said it appeared the dog lived at his home.
He denied being in charge of a dog - Jess - dangerously out of control causing injury.
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Both Rocky and Meek were returned to Leguen, now of York Close, Bootle, in 2018.
He was set to stand trial on October 19 this year.
However, police gave prosecutors Ms Huyton's 999 call, in which Leguen could be heard saying Rocky bit her.
Leguen admitted the charge on the basis it was Rocky, not Jess, who attacked Ms Huyton.
This meant Jess, who had been held by the police for two years, was also returned to his family.
An officer today confirmed there had been no further incidents involving Rocky in the two years since.
Mr Pickavance said because of these "wholly exceptional" circumstances, the Crown applied for a Contingent Destruction Order, rather than for Rocky to be put down.
Judge Anil Murray said he would suspend what would otherwise have been an immediate prison sentence because of the delay in the case.
Carmel Wilde, defending, said: "The defendant very much wishes to convey his genuine remorse. It appears to be out of character for the dog."
The court heard Leguen had "relatively minor previous convictions", which were some time ago.
Judge Murray told him: "This was a serious incident and, as I've told your barrister, had you been sentenced nearer the time, an immediate sentence of imprisonment would likely have been the result. However, there are unusual aspects of this case."
He said there were "two important points", firstly that the attack was more than two years ago, and secondly that the prosecution was brought on the basis the dog was Jess, and when the indictment was amended to state it was Rocky, Leguen pleaded guilty.
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Judge Murray said an aggravating feature of the case was Bailey's death.
However, the author of a pre-sentence report said Leguen showed genuine remorse, was open to work on thinking skills, had mental health issues, and a partner and children.
The judge said: "You're thought to be a low risk of causing harm to the public, there's no history of poor compliance with court orders, you're thought to be a realistic prospect of rehabilitation and an immediate custodial sentence would have a significant harmful impact on others, because you have a partner and children."
Judge Murray handed Leguen nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months, a 20-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, and 100 hours of unpaid work.
He granted the Contingent Destruction Order, which means Rocky must not be taken outside unless on a fixed length lead and with a muzzle, and not by anyone under 16.
Judge Murray said: "You would be wise to implement similar conditions in relation to all of the dogs, because should there be another incident like this, a court would have to I think send you immediately to prison. Do you understand?"
Leguen replied: "Yes, I do anyway now, I've implemented all of those."
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Ms Huyton and her partner, 41-year-old Luke Hobbart, had owned Bailey - their first dog - since he was a puppy.
Speaking at the time, Ms Huyton told the ECHO: "Bailey was a big softy and would never hurt anyone, he was as soft as anything. He enjoyed human company more than other dogs.
"I just don't want anyone else to go through what we went through."