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Couple sentenced over bunker boy

A mother and stepfather who forced their 11-year-old son to live in a filthy converted coal bunker are to be sentenced.

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 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 parents, in their 40s, 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.

Both were due to be sentenced last week at Preston Crown Court but after hearing the evidence, Judge Norman Wright adjourned sentencing until today as the case was so "emotionally charged". Both defendants were remanded in custody.

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 traumatised and psychologically damaged by his experience, the court heard at the last hearing.

Lawyers for the defendants said the boy was "undoubtedly" a very difficult child to manage but the parents were inadequate rather than wicked.

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