Three years after a police dog was put down for biting a teenager Sussex Police has had been forced to dish out the highest compensation payout in the country.

There was a media storm after Bruce the police dog was given a death sentence for attacking the youngster who was fleeing the police.

Hundreds of readers complained he was only doing his job and should have been retired. More than £600 was raised for a special plaque and his name was emblazoned on the front of a Brighton and Hove bus as a tribute.

Now a record £42,500 has been dished out in legal fees and compensation after a lengthy court case.

It is believed to be the largest sum given out by any force in the UK as a result of a police dog bite in the last financial year.

A police spokesman said the way dogs are monitored has also been transformed since Bruce chased the youngster at a brawl in Brighton in 2002.

He said dogs are trained to sink teeth into assailants' arms if they flee from or attack coppers but even routine bites, which happen about 40 times a year, are now subject to a rigorous system of checks called 'Operation Dog Bite'.

Officers have to fill in a five-page report after every incident, which gets passed on to supervisors to decide whether the dog poses any danger to the public.

If it does and then fails further safety checks it is retired.

A watchdog panel was also set up to keep an eye on the force's four-legged pals. The Police Dog Welfare and Lay Visitorsí Panel ensured the care of police dogs is given a high priority and their handling is effective and ethical.

The spokesman said: "We did a full, comprehensive review after the incident and introduced a completely new process of how to handle the dogs.

"The case of Bruce was unprecedented - very unusual. Dogs will react to a situation such as if its handler is assaulted but it is very rare for it to stray from its training."

The Argus was flooded with letters from devastated readers after Bruce's death, and more than £600 was collected for a plaque dedicated to the popular Alsatian. It was placed near his ashes in the garden of grieving handler PC Pete Tattum.

Nigel Yeo, the Assistant Chief Constable who ordered Bruce's destruction at the time, left the position last year after he got a top job in the RSPCA.