Lesbian couple guilty of neglect of girl, 8
A LESBIAN couple have been convicted of neglecting an eight-year-old girl in a case that left one doctor claiming it was one of the worst instances she has seen in her 20-year career.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, weighed just half the normal weight for her age.
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 responsible for the day-to-day care of 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.
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After a three-day trial at Truro Crown Court, the two women were found guilty on Wednesday 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, for the prosecution, said that in January 2011 the mother took the child to her GP saying she was concerned about her weight. He said: "The doctor found that her body was very thin with wasted muscle and no body fat at all. This was very abnormal."
The girl was referred to a specialist and admitted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth a few weeks later.
Mr Lee 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."
Consultant paediatrician Dr Rachel Howells said that despite having worked with children for 20 years she was shocked by the girl's state.
She said: "I have never seen a child look so malnourished ... she would have been malnourished for at the very least six months and probably longer than that – 18 months or two years."
The eight-year-old spent a number of weeks in hospital and was diagnosed with 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.
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.
Mr Lee said the girl should have been taken to a doctor sooner.
He said: "They might have known that something was wrong with her, something seriously wrong and that she needed medical attention, yet they did not seek it.
Both women denied the charge and told police in interviews that they did not know the girl had a medical condition and that they thought she was a fussy eater.
Following the conviction, Judge Peter Johnson said: "I do not regard this as a short term period of neglect."
They are due to be sentenced at Bournemouth Crown Court next month.