A woman who made a child eat her own vomit has had her “wholly unreasonable” prison sentence for child cruelty more than quadrupled by judges at the Court of Appeal.
In September, Lorna Dennington was jailed for 12 months at Teesside Crown Court after admitting three charges of child cruelty while her husband Christopher Dennington, 51, was also jailed for 12 months for the child cruelty offences and one count of fraud.
Their sentences were referred to the Court of Appeal by the Solicitor General as “unduly lenient” and, on Thursday 17 November, appeal judges increased the woman’s sentence to four years and ten months in prison while her partner now faces a sentence of six years in prison.
In his ruling, Lord Justice William Davis said the cruelty spanned multiple years against three children in their care, with one child facing the cruel treatment between 2006 and 2017.
Lorna Dennington had repeatedly hit the children, including by slapping them, punching one child on the nose and hitting another in the head with a cupboard door, the court was told.
Judges were also told that Lorna Dennington had dragged a girl out of a bunk bed and down the stairs by her hair on one occasion and that the 47-year-old would use a kitchen scrubbing pad on the girl’s skin if the woman thought she had not properly washed in the bath.
In his ruling, Lord Justice William Davis later described an incident where one of the children, who was said to be around 15 or 16 at the time, had thrown up her dinner.
“Lorna Dennington made her pick up the vomit from the floor and eat it,” he said.
The court heard how Christopher Dennington had spent all but around £1,000 of one child’s £59,000 trust fund that had been left to the boy after his father died.
Lord Justice William Davis said the now-adult had wanted to use the money to buy a house.
In a statement, he said: “I am gutted that the money left to me after my father’s death is gone … They have taken away my dreams by stealing the money.”
Both offenders appeared at the hearing in London via video link, with Lorna Dennington held at HMP Low Newton and her husband in custody at Holme House prison.
The pair have mental health issues and had experienced trauma, the court was told, with Lorna Dennington previously stating she was overwhelmed by the responsibility of looking after multiple children.
Lord Justice William Davis, sitting with Mr Justice Murray and Judge Philip Katz KC, found that the sentencing judge had given the couple too much of a reduction on their sentences for the guilty pleas at the start of their trial.
“There was no proper basis to depart from the guideline,” he said, adding they were “wholly unreasonable” sentences.
The judge noted that the cruelty inflicted on the children often took place in front of others.
“This fact led each victim to a sense of hopelessness – each saw no escape from the dreadful home life to which they were exposed,” Lord Justice William Davis said.
He concluded that the sentencing judge had fallen into “gross error” with the sentences, quashing the original terms as unduly lenient.
After the hearing, Solicitor General Michael Tomlinson MP said: “Christopher and Lorna Dennington both showed utter disregard for the welfare of the victims inflicting lasting and considerable harm on them.
“I welcome these increased sentences which better reflect the damage caused to these innocent lives.”
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