A neglected little boy was found living in a “rubbish tip” of a home with his drug addict parents, who were incapable of caring for him.
Uncapped heroin needles, rotting food and rubbish were strewn about the fly-infested home, when social services and the police located the seven-year-old’s whereabouts, Leicester Crown Court was told.
The child disappeared off the local authority’s radar after moving house and failed to attend school for six months.
Alexander Wolfson, prosecuting, said there was a multi-agency meeting in December 2018, before the police attended an address in Leicester and found it to be in “absolute squalor.”
He said: “The conditions were disgusting, with rotting food and piles of rubbish everywhere.
“The bedrooms, lounge and bathroom were filthy.
“The kitchen was rancid with a couple of tins of food left open and evidence of mouse droppings.
“The stove was inaccessible, there was mouldy food in the fridge and it was difficult to move around.
“Unfortunately drugs paraphernalia was lying about; items associated with taking heroin, with uncapped needles.
“Cigarette ash was evident and flies. Bags of rubbish were on the upstairs landing.
“When a drawer in the boy’s bedroom cupboard was opened “a cloud of flies flew into the air,” said the prosecutor.”
‘The toilet was filthy with no evidence of a toothbrush or toothpaste in the bathroom’
He added: “There were faeces marks across a wall.
“The toilet was filthy with no evidence of a toothbrush or toothpaste in the bathroom.
“The child didn’t appear to have a change of clothes and didn’t have pyjamas.
“He was not wearing underwear or socks.”
He did not appear to have toys fit to play with.
The boy told officers he had eaten “some cookies” during the day, but did not appear to have had anything else.
The foster parents he was placed with reported that he did not want to wash, brush his teeth or have his hair washed and was “terrified of flies.”
He was “always hungry” and had difficulty understanding the difference between day and night.
He had not been registered with a GP and needed medication for worms.
The child was placed in school and assessed as being two years behind.
However, he did not appear to be malnourished or to have any other medical issues.
Mr Wolfsen said the child said he had played on an XBox a lot when living with his parents.
He ate bread and butter with ketchup and played with the toaster in his father’s bedroom – and went to bed when he liked.
When interviewed, the father said multiple bereavements had left him unable to cope, and he went into a drug-induced downward spiral.
The mother accepted the house was in a poor condition saying she only lived there because she had “nowhere else.”
Both parents, who are not being named because of a court order protecting the boy’s identity, pleaded guilty to an offence of child cruelty by neglect.
Mr Wolfsen said: “He’s been doing well in short-term foster care and will be placed into long-term foster care.
“He has a bright future ahead of him.
“He’s desperate to see his mum and dad and is described as being fiercely loyal to them – and asks about them.
“They are having supervised contact with him.”
The distressed mother wept in the dock during the hearing.
‘Some of the rooms look like rubbish tips’
Judge Ebraham Mooncey said: “This is a difficult sentencing exercise.
“When it involves an innocent child who has clearly suffered, anyone’s instincts would be to mete the harshest penalties on those responsible.
“One has to look at the facts and the circumstances.”
He told the parents: “The prosecutor tells me you’ve had contact with your son and he’s expressed a desire to continue contact with you and that he loves you both.
“He’s fiercely loyal to both of you.
“He obviously now has a bright future and the hardship he’s suffered is potentially something that can be put behind him.
“I’m dealing with two people who weren’t, by any measure, capable of looking after a child.
“I’ve been given details about what led to this awful situation arising.
“Both of you, historically, have drug problems and that’s affected the way you live your lives.”
The court heard that one of the child’s grandparents had been actively involved in helping to properly care for the boy at a different address, but when she died he ended up living elsewhere with his parents.
Other deaths in the family led to his father relapsing into former class A drug addiction.
The judge said: “The photographs of the house speak for themselves.
“Some of the rooms look like rubbish tips.
“Heroin needles were around, there was rotten food and flies.
“A police officer says, in his statement, he retched and almost threw up when he went into the house.
“It’s very fortunate the child has made a full recovery.
“This wasn’t evil out-and-out cruelty.
“The parents are themselves incapable and inadequate.
“There are positive measures now in their lives, in the sense of dealing with their addictions.”
‘It’s a human tragedy’
Philip Gibbs, mitigating for the father, who is in his 40s, said: “The defendant loves his son.
“It’s clear from the photographs he failed in his duty to care for his son.
“He says prior to moving there the boy was perfectly looked after.
“The father, who had been clean of drugs for several years before relapsing, disagreed with some of the prosecution claims, saying the boy was given baths but had an aversion to bathing.
He was taken out, he was also fed – as there was evidence of cereal boxes and take-aways.
The boy had been taught how to use a knife and fork, it was claimed.
He and the child’s mother accept they “struggled” to maintain the house, said Mr Gibbs.
The father claimed he did not seek help for fear of having his son taken away.
Mr Gibbs said: “He apologises to his son over and above all else.
“They have supervised contact and the bond remains.
“The child loves his dad and his mum – it’s a human tragedy.
“It’s alarming a child can disappear out of the school system for that length of time.
“The boy went into foster case without any real medical concerns and has thrived.”
‘I’ve let my son down’
Paul Prior, mitigating for the mother, who is in her 30s, said: “Her supervised contact with her son is described as positive and ongoing.
“She’s been full and frank about her failings.
“She understands she’s not capable of looking after him.
“She knows she should have done an awful lot better but as a result of her class A drug addiction she couldn’t.
“She’s deeply remorseful and deeply motivated to be a mother that her son can, one day, be proud of.”
Mr Prior said she regretted failing to arrange schooling with the local council.
She feared her son’s mental health would be affected.
The barrister quoted her as telling him: “I only wanted to be a decent mum, I have no excuse.
“He’s the only thing I wake up for.
“He’s perfect and I’ve let him down.
“He’s the only good thing I’ve done with my life.”
The parents were each given 10 month jail sentences, suspended for 18 months, with one year of drug rehabilitation.
Both were placed on three month home curfews, at separate addresses, between 10pm and 6am.
The father was ordered to attend 15 days of rehabilitation activity.