AN angry man who was convicted of taking a “penalty kick” at a woman’s West Highland terrier in a Carlisle park has been allowed to keep his own pet dog.

A district judge at the city’s Rickergate Magistrates’ Court drew back from banning Stuart Whelen from keeping dogs – despite him having been convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to the Westie owned by a woman he encountered in Chances Park, Morton.

District Judge John Temperley made the decision after hearing an impassioned plea from Whelen, who said he had looked after rescue dogs for 20 years.

Whelen, 44, of Dalton Avenue, Raffles, had denied two allegations of using threatening behaviour towards other dog owners and causing unnecessary suffering to the terrier. He was convicted after a trial.

After that conviction, Whelen was charged with two counts of witness intimidation and remanded in custody.

He was freed from jail at that point.

But last week, a Carlisle Crown Court judge was told those two allegations would be discontinued due to a lack of evidence. As a result, Whelen was freed by the judge.

He was today, however, sentenced for three offences he was convicted of at the trial in August. Magistrates heard disturbing accounts of how Whelen abused two other dog walkers in Chances Park.

It happened on May 8 as local woman Maxine Denby walked her dog in Chances Park. She had challenged Whelen after seeing him throw his dog forcefully to the ground.

Whelen responded by verbally abusing her, the court heard.

Four days later, dog walker Patricia Guanlett was walking her two dogs in the same park including her West Highland terrier Cara.

When her dog ran towards Whelen as he cycled quickly past with his pet Yorkshire terrier running alongside him, Whelen threw down his bike and began screaming at her, falsely claiming one of her dogs bit his pet.

It was after this that he kicked Cara, taking what looked like a 'penalty kick,' so forceful that it lifted the dog into the air.

In court today, Whelen insisted he would appeal against the convictions.

He pleaded not to be banned from keeping his pet, saying: “I’ve had rescue dogs for 20 years; that’s what stops me getting into trouble.”

District Judge Temperley imposed an 18 month community order, with a requirement for Whelen to complete 10 days of rehabilitation activity and to take a Probation Service Thinking Skills Course.

He must also pay costs arising from the prosecution of £495.

The judge imposed a restraining order, banning Whelen from Chances Park and from making any contact with the four people who testified against him..

Explaining why he did not ban Whelen from keeping dogs, the judge said it was for the following reasons: the fact that he was not convicted of causing suffering to his own dog; that there was no evidence in the trial of injury the West Highland terrier, and the fact that Whelen said having a dog helped stabilise his mental health and his involvement in caring for a dog now and dogs in the future.