South East Wales

Mother and partner jailed for neglecting boy, 3, in Trevethin

The head of a local body responsible for protecting the young from harm says agencies have helped to avoid a tragedy involving a three-year-old boy.

The boy's mother, Lisa Brooks, and her partner, Tomas Lewis, have been jailed after he suffered "horrific neglect".

Sue Evans, chair of Torfaen Local Safeguarding Children Board, said it was a complex case where parents evaded professionals.

Brooks was jailed for three years and Lewis for three-and-a-half years.

"Child protection work is extremely challenging and we must remember that this was a complex case which ended with a successful intervention for the child; the agencies involved ultimately helped avert a tragedy," said Ms Evans.

According to newspaper reports, the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was close to death, suffering from dehydration and hypothermia when he was discovered by police two years ago.

The reports said that after a tip-off to social services, police found him locked in a bare cell-like room with no lighting and the heating turned off despite it snowing outside.

The child had two black eyes, injuries over his body, and he and the walls were covered in faeces.

Brooks, 25 and Lewis, 22, from Trevethin, Pontypool, pleaded guilty to wilful neglect in January and were sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court on Wednesday.

Gwent Police said he suffered "horrific" neglect at their home in Trevethin, Pontypool.

Neighbours expressed anger at the boy's treatment.

Laura Strange, who lives in the flat above, said: "It's disgusting, really, really, bad.

"They don't deserve kids. There's people out there who can't have children at all and there's people out there who can't look after them."

The boy has since been adopted and the judge was told he showed no signs of psychological damage.

Ms Evans said the boy was "thriving and happy" with his foster parents.

"We welcome the outcome of the criminal proceedings and it gives a clear and strong message that neglect and abuse won't be tolerated by society," she told BBC Radio Wales.

'Awful conditions'

"There are a range of agencies involved with the family and the good multi-agency approach between health visitors, social workers and the police ensured that early intervention was taken.

"In some of these complex cases it's usual for parents to evade being met by professionals and this particular case was one of those cases.

"The mother lived a bit of an itinerant lifestyle with frequent changes of address and very often avoided meeting up with professionals and missed various appointments."

Det Insp Mark Johnson, of Gwent Police, said the sentences reflected the severity of the the neglect and also praised the agencies for their work.

"The neglect experienced by the child in this case was horrific. However, there is no doubt that the action taken by the agencies involved in this complex case ultimately helped to avert a tragedy and thankfully the child is now doing well," he said.

Claire Burton, senior crown prosecutor for CPS Cymru-Wales, said Brooks and Lewis were responsible for the "dreadful mistreatment of a very young child".

She added: "Cases involving the neglect of children are always distressing, and this one was no exception.

"Lisa Brooks and Tomas Lewis were responsible for the dreadful mistreatment of a very young child. When the CPS looked at the evidence gathered by Gwent Police, there was no doubt in our minds that the awful conditions the child had been kept in made criminal charges a necessity."

Des Mannion, NSPCC national head of service for Wales, said it was a disturbing case.

"This vulnerable child had been subjected to living in horrific conditions, locked in a room for extended periods by the adults who should have loved and protected him," he said.

"Unfortunately this case will not be unique, we know that almost one in 10 children in the UK are neglected by their parents, leaving them vulnerable to harm."

He urged any parent who feels like they cannot cope or anyone who suspects a child is being abused or neglected to contact social services, the police, or to call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.

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