Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedfordshire child cruelty hoarders get suspended sentence

A couple who filled their home with junk have been given suspended prison sentences for child cruelty.

Ambulance worker Duncan Scott, 47 and partner Claire Anderson, 46, were told by an Old Bailey judge they were lucky not to be going to jail immediately.

The pair, from Bedfordshire, pleaded guilty to four charges of child cruelty by providing inappropriate living conditions for four children.

It is thought to be the first prosecution of its kind in Britain.

The court heard there were piles of clothes in the bedrooms and toys and other items from car boot sales all over the house.

'Socialised at boot sales'

Police and social workers who went to the three-bedroom terraced property found the children, all aged under 16, were eating their meals on the stairs because the kitchen was so cluttered.

Charles Ward-Jackson, prosecuting, said the house was "extremely untidy" but he accepted it was clean.

The couple's behaviour was criticised by social workers but this was ignored.

Judge John Bevan said despite money problems they spent all they had at car boot sales.

"She shows a number of characteristics common in individuals who hoard, frequently shopping, visiting car boot sales on a weekly basis," the judge said.

"She seems to have spent a lot of time socialising at them in order to give her a social life."

Bozzie Sheffi, representing Anderson, said her client suffered from depression and was physically exhausted.

'Dreadful photographs'

Judge Bevan sentenced the couple to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and ordered them to do 150 hours of unpaid work each.

He said to the couple, who had been on bail: "You can count yourselves fortunate you are leaving by the same door you came in.

"The evidence demonstrates you were slovenly. The photographs are dreadful.

"The lower bunk bed could not appear to be seen. There was nowhere to eat food other than on the stairs."

He told Scott: "As an ambulance technician, you should have known better."

And he told Anderson: "The children were unkempt and untidy. Despite claiming you were suffering depression, you were not prevented from going to car boot sales and making the situation worse and worse."

The problem of hoarding has been highlighted by television programmes featuring individuals and families whose homes have been filled up with possessions, often leaving them unable to move properly around their homes or sleep in their beds.

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