Lesbian couple escape jail after neglecting eight-year-old girl
A LESBIAN couple found guilty of neglecting an eight-year-old girl who was left weighing just half the average weight for her age after up to two years of neglect, has escaped jail.
The girl’s mother, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, had left the father of her children and moved to south east Cornwall with her 25-year-old lover from the north of England in the summer of 2010.
They were both parents to the girl, who was found to be suffering from severe muscle wasting and was seriously underweight when she was seen by a GP in January 2011.
She was referred to specialist and admitted to Derriford Hospital, where doctors diagnosed Coeliac disease – a digestive condition that means the sufferer has an intolerance of gluten. Side effects of the disease can include weight loss and malnutrition.
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The two women, who have separated since the offence came to light, appeared at Truro Crown Court on Monday for sentence.
Malcolm Clarke, defending the mother, said she had previously come to the attention of social services when a neighbour noticed that her son was under weight but no action was taken when it was revealed that the boy suffered from a stomach condition that caused him to lose weight.
He argued that she should not be sent to prison.
He said: “The tragic thing is that the child went unnoticed to everyone including the school ... this family has been punished enough because of her actions and she knows that.”
Barrie Van den Berg, defending the mother’s lover, said she was a kind young woman.
He said: “Nobody, not even the doctors realised initially what she [the girl] was suffering from and there was no way that these parents could know that.”
After a three-day trial at Truro Crown Court last month, the two women were found guilty on of willfully neglecting the youngster in a way likely to cause her unnecessary suffering or injury to health between June 30, 2010 and January 27, 2011.
Phillip Lee argued that they should have sought medical help earlier.
He said: “She weighed 13.7kg – an extremely low weight. The average weight for a girl of that age is 27kg. Her severely emaciated condition was exceptional and she had been severely malnourished for a long time.”
The eight-year-old spent a number of weeks in hospital and is now doing well on a gluten-free diet.
Photographs of the child were taken in hospital and shown to the jury during the trial. They showed a very thin, young girl whose hip bones and ribs were visible through the skin.
Sentencing both women, who have moved away from Cornwall, to 12 months in prison suspended for two years, Judge Peter Johnson said he believed the girl had been malnourished for at least six months and almost certainly up to two years.
He said: “I remain at a loss as to why it is that you did not take her to the doctors before January 2011.”
He ordered that they be under the supervision of the probation service.