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Mum Has Cruelty Sentence Cut
7:01am 25th July 2013
A west Cornwall mum jailed after her children were found living in 'Dickensian' squalor has had her sentence halved by top judges - who said she was 'inadequate', rather than deliberately cruel.
The woman, who cannot be identified to protect the children, was prosecuted after social workers found her two sons living in disgusting conditions.
London's Criminal Appeal Court heard the boys, then aged seven and eight, still slept in nappies and were covered in dirt, were obese and unable to exercise, and had recurring head lice.
Their mother was jailed for two years at Truro Crown Court earlier this year, after she admitted two counts of cruelty to a child.
But her sentence was cut to one year by Appeal Court judges, who said part of her punishment will be the loss of her children - as she is unlikely ever to care for them again.
The court heard social services first became involved with the family when they were living in a 'filthy dirty' home, which was described by one social worker as the worst she had ever seen.
Following a period of regular supervision by social services, improvements were made and the intervention was eventually withdrawn.
However, the court heard things 'deteriorated drastically' over the next 15 months and the children were living in 'utter squalor'.
The boys were sleeping in nappies and had not been taught basic personal hygiene.
They also had dirt ingrained on their skin and were given fatty food so they became obese, leading to inflammation and soreness on their skin.
The court heard the pair were riddled with tooth decay, their hair was a breeding ground for lice and their feet were covered in corns and bunions.
Sentencing the mother, the crown court judge said that the boys were living in 'deplorable conditions of truly Dickensian squalor'.
The judge considered the case to be one of 'protracted, wilful neglect', but the mother's lawyers argued she had inadequate parenting skills and was unable to cope.
They said the judge didn't take enough account of the difference between positive acts of abuse and cases of neglect characterised by the 'absence of action'.
Allowing the appeal, and reducing the mother's sentence by a year, Mr Justice Griffith Williams said: "We consider this to be an anxious case and we have considerable sympathy with the learned sentencing judge.
"But we are persuaded that the features of the appellant's inadequacy called for a shorter sentence.
"While the learned judge was correct in describing her conduct as wilful, it seems to this court that the wilfulness owed more to her inadequacy than to any other factor."
Sitting with Lord Justice Fulford and Judge Peter Thornton QC, he added: "It is an important consideration that the likelihood today is that the appellant will never be allowed to care for her children again.
"It follows from that, that a part of her punishment will be the loss to her of her children."
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