Children found living in 'shocking and repugnant' house with rotting food and animal faeces

Christopher Bennett and Gemma Brogan were each sentenced to 18 weeks in prison Credit: Sussex Police

An Eastbourne couple who systematically neglected seven children, forcing them to live in filthy conditions, have been jailed.

The children aged between four and 17 years old were found inside a three-bedroom property, which had 10 people and 35 dogs crammed inside.

Christopher Bennett, 35, and Gemma Brogan, 41, were both sentenced to 18 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to seven counts of child neglect.

The court heard that police were called to their then address after a report of a domestic incident there at 11.40pm on 14 June 2021.

The children were taken into emergency protection, with the four youngest now living with supportive families.

The 35 dogs, and another one who had died were removed by the RSPCA and taken into their care. 

Detective Constable Fiona Ashcroft of the East Sussex Safeguarding Investigations Unit said: "Upon entering the address, our officers were shocked about the state of the property and had major concerns for the welfare of all the children.

"The stench, as you entered the hallway, hit officers hard - they were not able to breath normally due to the stench.

"The state of the whole house was shocking and repugnant - it was cluttered and was strewn with discarded clothing, litter, rotting food and animal faeces.

"It looked as if it had been filthy for a number of years. 

“There was a deafening sound of dogs yapping and barking coming from the room in front of the hallway.

"When the door to the living room was opened, officers were shocked to see dozens of dogs climbing over each other to try and reach the open door.

"All the dogs looked malnourished and skinny. Their fur was greasy, matted and covered in each other’s faeces. In amongst the filth and melee of dogs, officers removed a sleeping child from the sofa, who was dressed in just a soiled nappy and had dogs jumping all over them.

“All seven children, then aged between four and 17, were immediately taken into emergency protection and following partnership working with the local authority children’s services they were subsequently rehoused.

"The four youngest children are now living with supportive families and are learning all the principle social, mobility and life skills that our society hinges on.

"This was a particularly dreadful example of child neglect. The address is a three-bedroom property which had 10 occupants and 35 dogs crammed in. It is impossible to paint an accurate picture of the full extent of degradation and filth these vulnerable children had to endure. It is unequivocally one of the most awful addresses I have ever been in.” 

Brogan was sentenced to an 18-week prison sentence with was suspended for two years.

She was given a five-year ban for all animals, 30 Rehabilitation Activity days and 100 hours of community service work.

Bennett was sentenced to 18 weeks' imprisonment and was disqualified indefinitely from keeping all animals. 

An NSPCC spokesperson said: "This is hugely distressing case, and we hope these seven children are now receiving all the support they need. These children should have felt safe and cared for in their home, but Bennett and Brogan put themselves first with complete disregard for the children’s welfare, resulting in them living in devastating conditions.

"It is vitally important that anyone with concerns for the safety or wellbeing of a child contacts the relevant authorities immediately.

"Parents and carers who are struggling and anyone with concerns about a child’s wellbeing can also contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000, or email"

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