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(Court of Appeal; Hooper LJ, McCombe and Openshaw JJ; 13 July 2007)
The father had been living with the mother, three step-children, and three children. Following an injury to the youngest child, then 2, inflicted in the father's absence, a police officer visited the home and reported on the unsatisfactory state of the children's living conditions. A few months later the mother slashed the youngest child with a shard of broken glass while the father was at work. Conditions in the home were unchanged. The mother was convicted of a series of offences, including wounding with intent. The father pleaded guilty to 6 counts of cruelty to children by neglect, on the basis that for a period of 4 months he had failed to provide sufficient care, having worked excessive hours to provide for family, become exhausted and stressed, and thus failed to sufficiently to play his part in the day-to-day care of the children. The father had no previous convictions. The pre-sentence report made it clear that the father was deeply remorseful. The father had been diagnosed with depression. There was evidence that if the father went to prison it was likely that he would lose his job, held for nearly 20 years, and his house. The judge sentenced him to 7 months imprisonment on each count, concurrent.
The plea had been made on a limited basis, not reflected in the sentence. Further, this was not a case of deliberate assault, but of low grade neglect, within a limited period of time, characterized by a general failure of care as a result of which the children had ceased to thrive and to meet developmental milestones. The father had been faced with a series of serious problems he could not deal with. He could and should have sought help, but failure to do so was a further sign of his inadequacy and the magnitude of his problems. This was not a case calling for punishment, but for leniency, indeed mercy; the father required help and assistance. The sentences of imprisonment were quashed, and substituted with a probation order on each count, to run for 12 months.
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