Probation for woman who let baby die in squalor: Jury pleaded with judge to be lenient

A MOTHER of seven was put on probation for three years at the Old Bailey yesterday for the manslaughter of her 15-month-old son.

The 37-year-old woman and her 44-year-old husband were convicted in February of causing the death of the baby, who died in squalor and agony, covered in sores in a urine- soaked pram. Last month, the father was jailed for seven years for manslaughter and cruelty to three of the other children. His wife had been cleared of cruelty charges.

The jury of six men and five women who convicted the couple afterwards wrote to Judge Geoffrey Grigson pleading for leniency for the mother.

She was remanded for reports and the judge said yesterday he proposed to put her on probation providing she lived in a probation hostel for the next 12 months.

She left court with her probation officer. Neither she nor her husband can be named for legal reasons. The couple's other children are now subject to an interim care order.

The jury had heard that the mother - who lived with her family in north London - had an IQ lower than that of 98 per cent of the population and was within a mild mental handicap range. She was also partially disabled.

She and her husband had received regular help from an Islington social services worker, but the helper had been on strike for months leading up to the baby's death. None of the children had been put on an 'at risk' register.

The jury heard that the baby lay in a pram in the corner of his parents' bedroom, tied into his sodden baby clothes and facing the wall, and was ignored and had no stimulation for hours on end.

Eventually, he developed ulcers and a nappy rash which covered 35 per cent of his body. Infection took over, followed by blood poisoning. Crying and miserable, in his last hours the baby lapsed into a coma and died from pneumonia.

Doctors who examined the baby afterwards said they had never seen such a bad case of neglect. He was unwashed, unkempt and his fingernails were green. He was regularly abandoned and neither parent liked the social services 'poking their noses' into their business.

They thought any call for assistance might result in the children's removal. But they 'reluctantly tolerated' visits from the key social worker, who supplied them with many hand-outs.

The social worker arranged for the family to be moved into a five- bedroom council house which was completely renovated at a cost of pounds 106,000 in June 1991. They were given carpets, furniture, a new fridge-freezer, a washing machine and a cooker. But in a short period they had reduced it to a 'squalid state', Orlando Pownall, for the prosecution, had told the court.

After the trial, John Bowis, a health minister, described the events leading to the baby's death as a 'shocking saga of neglect and incompetence'.

Islington Area Child Protection Committee has commissioned an independent review into the role of all the agencies involved with the baby and the family. Its findings are expected to be made public by the autumn.

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