Breeder Julie Lindley quickly destroyed both dogs and is, the court heard, full of remorse. I am sure she is. But how on earth did she come to have dogs with such a dangerous temperament? That kind of behaviour simply doesn't come out of nowhere.
Now the Bullmastiff is a guard dog and is bred to defend its territory. But "a serious and sustained" attack of three children off their own territory?
The KC breed description describes the Bullmastiff as "makes a happy companion who is totally reliable both physically and mentally". Clearly these dogs were not. And although it's clear there were some mitigating circumstances here (it's thought the dogs had been let out by someone trying to steal them) the dogs still bit three children and, according to evidence presented in court, shook them "like dolls".
Now temperament is paramount for many breeders - but not all. And it's possible to get away with a poor temperament within in a system that is still focused primarily on looks. Sure, the show-ring conditions dogs to trot round a ring without attacking other dogs and it teaches them to be fondle-friendly enough for a judge to grab their testicles and not have their faces bitten off. But often not much else. Indeed, in attempting to maintain some semblance of the dogs' original qualities without the true test of actually doing the job properly (whether guarding or herding or retrieving or going to ground) the danger is that showdogs can end up with less stable temperaments than their working cousins.
In Sweden and some other countries, working breeds are asked to take temperament/mental stability tests. The results are published and taken seriously by breeders in their breeding decisions.
With new calls by MPs to extend the breed ban to more breeds, I suggest the Kennel Club acts quickly to introduce temperament tests for working breeds here too - and encourage the Clubs to promote them. They might just have prevented this tragedy, and would be a proactive and welcome addition to current requirements for Accredited Breeders (of which Julie Hindley is one).
The KC might want to suggest that Julie Hindley removes the glowing reports of Theo on her website, where she is still advertising the dog at stud.
Part of the blurb there reads: "Theo is very exciting dog he is such a showman he never lets me down and is very hard to ignore in the ring We can only dream of what else is to come from this boy."
Edited 21/2/13 + 22/2/13. Please also read the comments below.