A mother and stepfather who forced their young son to live in a filthy converted coal bunker in their Blackpool home have been sentenced to two years in jail.
The parents, who cannot be named for legal reasons, both admitted a single charge of cruelty by wilful neglect at an earlier hearing. Stephen Douglas reports.
The child was forced to sleep and spend his time inside the windowless room and use a potty at the end of the bed as he was locked up every night. The room had no heating, a bare light bulb, and concrete walls and floor.
The 11-year-old boy was put in the room as punishment for raiding the family's fridge, his parents told police after their arrest.
The room was a windowless old outhouse previously used as a coal bunker. It had one with one exit bricked up and a new one added leading to the lounge of the family home in Blackpool.
The boy's teachers became concerned after noticing he was constantly hungry in class. When police and social workers visited the house he was placed in foster care. Doctors who examined the boy said he was underweight and below average height for his age and treated him for anaemia.
Since being placed with foster parents he has put on weight and his behaviour has "improved dramatically", but the court heard how he will be left psychologically damaged by his experience.
Lawyers for the defendants had said the boy was "undoubtedly" a very difficult child to manage but the parents were inadequate rather than wicked. Sentencing Judge Norman Wright disagreed and said:
He said it had been submitted that the child's mother was "subordinate" to her "dominant" partner but he ruled their culpability was equal.