A COUPLE’S appalling neglect of their five children in a filthy, stinking house went on for ‘many years’ despite teachers, social workers and health professionals knowing of their plight, a court heard.
It was only when one of the children, a young girl, was admitted to hospital with severe nappy rash that the scale of the neglect was realised by care agencies.
Soon after the little girl went to hospital two of her brothers were also admitted and then urgent care proceedings were launched to remove all the couple’s children from them.
The youngsters, aged up to 14, were suffering from problems including malnutrition, lice and flea infestation and were grubby and smelly, Gloucester Crown Court was told.
One teacher had often been unable to bear the smell of one of the girls and had to walk away from her.
One teacher even took to washing one of the girls’ clothes herself at school because they smelt so badly.
When police went to arrest the parents at their home in Gloucestershire two months after the children had gone they were shocked at the state of the house, the court was told.
“The police found the home to be in a poor state with a strong smell of urine,” said prosecutor Kerry Barker. “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 officers were shocked that children had been allowed to live in those conditions.”
Yet for years beforehand 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.
The couple pleaded guilty to five charges of neglect of the children. Mr Barker said the couple also have other children and had been charged with neglect of them but the prosecution had decided not to proceed with those charges.
“After many years of social work intervention and concerns expressed by schoolteachers, a health visitor and medical professionals visited and the youngest child was admitted to hospital suffering from severe nappy rash,” he said.
“Two brothers were examined shortly afterwards and they too were admitted to hospital. Urgent care proceedings were launched and soon afterwards all the children were removed from the care of their parents.
“One of the most significant features of the case is how the children have thrived and their health has improved dramatically having been placed in the care of others such as foster carers.”
Mr Barker told how one of the couple’s daughters stank so much at school she had to be isolated. The mother had failed to keep appointments with a paediatrician to treat her for incontinence, Mr Barker said. The girl had poor vision and was struggling at school because the mother had not taken her to the opticians.
Mr Barker said one of the couple’s daughters caused concern at school where it was noticed she was sore from scratching head lice and her clothes were dirty and inappropriate for the weather. The mother became ‘very angry’ when contacted by the head teacher – and she and her husband claimed to a social worker they were being ‘got at’.
A paediatrician later found “there is evidence of both physical and emotional harm and neglect”.
Two of the couple’s children, old enough to be potty trained, were still in nappies, Mr Barker said.
Another was in such a bad way she could barely stand to be measured and was ‘distressed on weight bearing’.
Mr Barker said when the mother was questioned by police she refused for an hour to answer questions and then denied neglect.
She had treated head lice with mayonnaise.
Mr Barker said sentencing guidelines indicated the couple should be jailed for between five and nine years each.
However, Judge Jamie Tabor QC did not sentence the pair after solicitor Steve Young, for the mother, said a pre-sentence report on her from a probation officer was unfair and biased against her.
The judge adjourned until May 28 to give the probation officer a chance to respond. The couple were bailed until then.
Gloucestershire County Council and Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust said they could not comment on the case until after sentences are passed.