Hovel housing two kids was so dirty it made police officer vomit, court is told
A mother and her 23-year-old son who allowed two children, aged eight and five, to live in a house which was so unhygienic that a District Judge described the conditions as a hovel, have been spared jail.
They both pleaded guilty at Limavady Magistrates Court that, having responsibility for the two children, they wilfully caused or procured them to be exposed to cruelty. Because of the nature of the case neither the defendants nor their address can be made public.
A Public Prosecution Service solicitor told District Judge Liam McNally that on the afternoon of December 6 last year the police searched the home of the defendants under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The son, who is a cannabis addict, pointed out a quantity of the drug to the police in his bedroom.
The prosecutor said very few of the rooms in the house had working lights and the police had to use torches during the search operation.
"One of the officers had to leave the house to be physically sick outside because of the state of the property," the solicitor said.
A social worker was called by the police to come to the house and the police also called for a CSI officer to photograph the conditions they found inside.
"The two children were at a church event at the time. They were both clean and healthy but because of the state of the house the police and social worker arranged for them to stay with other family members," the solicitor added.
The male defendant was interviewed by the police and said he was responsible for looking after the children for several days.
His mother was on holiday at the time and on her return home she told the police that she accepted her home was in a bad state of disrepair and also accepted it had been so for a long time.
She also agreed that her home, given its condition, was not an appropriate place for children to stay in.
Barristers for both defendants said neither had any previous criminal convictions. They said the defendants had since spent a lot of money improving the condition of their home where the two children still live and they described the case as tragic.
Photographs of the original and current condition of the defendants' home were shown to the District Judge.
He said: "The bottom line in the case was that two children of tender age, one aged eight and the other aged five, lived in conditions that can only be described as atrocious and a hovel. The court has a duty to protect young children."
However, Mr McNally said he took into account the fact that both children were clean and healthy and that the defendants had engaged with and were continuing to engage with the social services. The District Judge said he was also satisfied that the defendants were looking after the needs of the children. He also took into consideration their previous good character and the fact that both had pleaded guilty to the charges at he earliest stage.
"I therefore do not believe it would be appropriate to send them to jail," he said.
The mother was placed on probation for six months and her son was placed on probation for 18 months.