A COUPLE who subjected their five children to “appalling neglect” for years despite welfare workers being aware of their plight, were jailed on Monday.
The couple had been due to be sentenced on Friday, but took drugs overdoses on Thursday night and were admitted to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
They were discharged on Friday night and spent the weekend at home under the supervision of a mental health crisis team.
Gloucester Crown Court heard how the children “suffered terribly” at the hands of the married couple.
Jailing them for two years each, Judge Jamie Tabor QC said that although it was not a case of deliberate cruelty, they were “inadequate, stupid, stubborn and incompetent” parents.
They had failed to keep medical appointments for the children or take advice and had forced them to live in squalor, he said.
Judge Tabor told the pair it was likely the children – who have now all been taken into care and are being adopted – would be scarred for life by the “abject failure and negligence”.
The pair, from the Stroud area, pleaded guilty to neglect of five children between July 2007 and December 2012.
They lived in a filthy, stinking house throughout that time, despite teachers, social workers and health professionals all becoming at least partly aware of the problems.
It was only when one child was admitted to hospital with severe nappy rash that the scale of the neglect was realised by the care agencies.
Soon after the little girl went to hospital, two other children were also admitted – and then urgent care proceedings were launched to remove all the couple’s children.
The youngsters were suffering from problems including malnutrition, lice and flea infestation and were grubby and smelly, said prosecutor Kerry Barker.
When police went to arrest the parents, they were shocked at the filthy state of the house.
The children’s bedrooms stank of urine and animal faeces. Dirty clothing was still lying around on the floors. The kitchen was dirty and smelled of stale food. The house was generally grimy and dirty, Mr Barker said.
“The officers were shocked that children had been allowed to live in those conditions. And, of course, that was two months after the children had been removed,” said Mr Barker.
For years, the smelly, lice-ridden, undernourished state of the children had been obvious to teachers and medical professionals, who repeatedly contacted the parents to voice their concerns, Mr Barker said.
The situation dragged on because the mother, particularly, failed to engage with the agencies and did not keep appointments with doctors and social workers. She would get angry and hostile when professionals contacted her about their concerns for the children.
Judge Tabor said “This is not a case of deliberate hurtful behaviour and assault, but one of wilful neglect. “ He said the consequences for the couple were that they would never see their children again.
“Both defendants are inadequate, stupid, stubborn, and incompetent but they did not deliberately inflict pain and suffering on the children and they tried their limited best to bring up the children.”
He took into account, he said, that they were of previous good character and had pleaded guilty at an early stage.
He also accepted that they suffered from physical disabilities which impeded their ability to care for children.
After the case Roger Clayton, the chairman of the Gloucestershire Children Safeguarding Board, said “The neglect these children suffered was unacceptable.
“I’m pleased that because action has been taken the children are now safe and doing well, and their parents have been successfully prosecuted.
“The Board had already been focusing on neglect as an issue and so we decided that a Serious Case Review would help us understand what happened in this particular case and what we can do differently in the future. It’s not appropriate for us to say anything more until the review is concluded.
“However, strong action has been taken by all partners to improve the way we protect children at risk of neglect. We’ve seen a substantial rise in the number of children who’ve been adopted because we are identifying children at risk earlier.”