Parents jailed for keeping 11-year-old in coal bunker

The boy's bed inside the converted coal bunker
The boy's bed inside the converted coal bunker Photo: Lancashire Police

A mother and stepfather who forced their 11-year-old son to live in a filthy converted coal bunker in Blackpool have each been jailed for two years.

Bullied and constantly hungry, the traumatised boy was made to live and sleep in the room, described as a "cell" by social workers, and reduced to using a potty as he was locked up each night until morning.

The boy was forced to use a potty as he was locked up each night.
The boy was forced to use a potty as he was locked up each night. Credit: Lancashire Police
The boy was forced to live in filthy conditions
The boy was forced to live in filthy conditions Credit: Lancashire Police

The rubbish-strewn room had no heating, a bare lightbulb, and concrete walls and floor, with the child left to sleep on a dirty mattress with a sleeping bag for a blanket.

The couple in their 40s, who cannot be named for legal reasons, both admitted a single charge of cruelty by wilful neglect between January 2010 and January 2011 at an earlier hearing at Preston Crown Court.

The 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 with one exit bricked up and a new one added leading to the lounge of the family home in Blackpool.

The youngster lived there between the ages of 11 and 12 before his school became concerned as the boy was always hungry in class. Police and social workers visited the house and 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, described as a "remarkable achievement for him".But the youngster will have been left psychologically damaged by his experience, the court heard at the last hearing. 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 told the pair: "This was a flagrant abuse of power and a gross breach of trust."

He added: "The room has been described as a cell but it seems to me it was akin to a prison cell from a third world country, not the home of an 11- or 12-year-old living in this century in this country."