Cornwall

Redruth stepfather jailed for 'gratuitous' cruelty

A stepfather who subjected his stepchildren to years of physical and mental cruelty has been jailed for four years at Truro Crown Court.

Justin Sumsion, 36, of Treloweth Estate, Redruth, Cornwall pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to two counts of child cruelty.

He also admitted one count of common assault on the children's mother.

Judge Christopher Elwen said Sumsion's "gratuitous degradation" had been an "abuse of power and abuse of trust".

Hammer threat

The court heard Samantha and Rees Springall - now aged 22 and 19 respectively - suffered both physical and psychological abuse over a period of six years.

Prosecutor Philip Lee said on one occasion the children had to put their hands on a table with palms outstretched while Sumsion threatened to break their fingers with a claw hammer if they did not do as they were told.

When Miss Springall was 16, Mr Lee said Sumsion drove her to a dark field, pulled her to the ground, tied a rope around her feet and towed her behind the vehicle, telling her she was a bad child and did not deserve to be in the family.

The prosecutor said Mr Springall described the period when he was aged about seven as "the most horrific" in his life.

He deliberately got into trouble at school so he would be kept from his home for as long as possible, Mr Lee said.

The boy was beaten with a tennis racket and had been forced to hold dumbbells in outstretched arms while Sumsion inflicted penetrating wounds with pins, the prosecutor told the court.

Parenting 'interpretation'

He had also been forced to stay in the garage for about four weeks, with no furniture or running water, with his mother letting him out to use the facilities only when Sumsion had gone out.

"He spent most of his life terrified of his stepfather," Mr Lee said.

Defending Sumsion, Joanna Martin stressed that his parents had been abusive and he had interpreted that as the way of parenting.

"He was trying to be a parent, it will take him a long time to accept his failures, to recognise the damage he was doing to the children," she said.

"He is desperate to say he loved the children and to apologise to them."

Jailing Sumsion, Judge Elwen described his conduct as "cruel, controlling and exceptionally unpleasant".

"Whatever may have been your experience of childhood, there is no excuse whatsoever for re-visiting those experiences on others," he added.

Judge Elwen ruled that the 121 days Sumsion had spent in prison on remand would count towards his sentence.

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