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Negligent parents whose son went blind while living in squalor jailed

Negligent parents whose son went blind while living in squalor jailed

A couple were jailed yesterday for neglecting a boy of 12 so badly he went blind in one eye.

Gillian Hendry and Craig Dick, both 34, kept the youngster and his sister, two, in a fly-infested house littered with nappies and old food.

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The boy lost sight in his left eye from cataracts because they failed to take him for hospital appointments that could have saved his sight.

He also became increasingly crippled with a form of juvenile arthritis until his doctors called in social services chiefs so they could give him the treatment he so desperately needed. 

When social workers went to the house in Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees in August last year the couple would not let them inside.

They returned with the police who were shocked by what they found, prosecutor David Crook told Teesside Crown Court.

The couple, who were living on benefits, were unkempt and the boy said that he could not see out of one eye, which had turned white from a cataract. They claimed they were too busy to notice the boy’s plight. The judge was shown photographs that showed the house in an ‘appalling’ state of filth and mess. The staircase was littered with trodden-in food and bin bags stuffed with dirty nappies.

The kitchen was infested with flies, and upstairs had a squalid toilet and a bath that was filled with cold, dirty water.

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One bedroom had been used as a toilet, and the children’s beds had no covers and filthy mattresses – which had turned damp and mouldy in the girl’s cot. By contrast, the couple’s bedroom was relatively tidy – although they said that they slept downstairs.

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The children were immediately taken into care. The boy now lives with his natural father, and the girl, who was fathered by Dick, is being put up for adoption.

Lawyers for the couple said they were unlikely to have responsibility for any children again. Peter Wishlade, defending Hendry, said she ‘let everything slip’ because she claimed to be depressed.

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He said: ‘Other than that, I don’t know how this has happened, I cannot give any explanation.’

Jim Withyman, defending Dick, said he was a man who could not even take care of his own personal hygiene.

He added: ‘There is a deficiency in him by allowing his children to live in such appalling conditions.’ Judge Howard Crowson, who earlier lifted court restrictions that would have made naming the couple impossible, told them: ‘The conditions we have seen in the photographs are appalling.

‘I feel this was inadequacy rather than a deliberate attempt to cause harm to either child.’

Hendry was jailed for two-and-a-half years and Dick for two years and two months after they admitted two charges of child neglect.

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