Couple jailed for locking their son in coal bunker

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The Independent Online

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

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.

Sentencing, Judge Norman Wright told them: "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."

The boy was put in the room as punishment for raiding the family's fridge, the couple 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 child lived there between the ages of 11 and 12 before his school became concerned as he was always hungry in class. Police and social workers visited the house and he was placed in foster care.

Judge Wright said the psychological harm to the boy "will be unknown", adding: "It is bound, in my judgement, to be profound."

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