Wales

Jailed mother who smacked children released on appeal

A mother jailed after her children complained to social services that she had smacked them has been freed on appeal.

A top judge said her actions were no worse than those of "many loving and caring parents throughout the land".

The mother, from a town near Cardiff, had been given an 18-month jail term after pleading guilty to cruelty.

This was cut to five months by the Criminal Appeal Court in London, leading to her immediate release.

The mother's barrister, Ruth Smith, told the court her client had been arrested and brought before the courts after one of her sons made a false allegation to social services that she had attacked him and caused him bruising.

The child later admitted this was a lie he had told in order to get more contact with his estranged father.

During investigations however, it came to light that she had slapped her 15-year-old son in the face during an argument in 2010.

The mother, whose partner had left her, had carried out "excessive chastisement" on four occasions on two of her sons over the space of seven years, the court heard.

This included banging two of her sons' heads together for fighting, and slapping two of her sons in 2003.

She had pleaded guilty to four counts of cruelty to a person under 16.

Ms Smith told the court that the mother, who is in her 30s, "couldn't cope" with her children, and said the only injury which was caused in these incidents was a bruised ear on one occasion.

She added that there was "clear evidence she had been a victim of domestic violence" herself.

Lord Justice Elias, freeing her, said: "An offender must be sentenced only for what she has been found guilty of.

'Moments of stress'

"This was plainly an unhappy home... [but] she is not being sentenced for being a bad mother or an incapable mother or of being incapable of controlling her children.

"Only one of these offences caused physical injury. The other incidents are similar to actions taken by many loving and caring parents throughout the land in moments of stress. They may regret it afterwards, but parenting is a difficult skill.

"It is said that the judge gave insufficient weight to her previous good character and was unjust in saying that she had shown no remorse, because there was evidence she was very upset at the time."

He said the premise of the sentence imposed by the judge was incorrect.

"If he had focused on the particular incidents, only one of which caused physical injury while the others may be seen as chastisement going beyond its bounds, a sentence of 18 months was too long," he said.

"We think the judge took his eye off the ball.

"We think the right thing to do now would be to give her a sentence of five months' imprisonment that would secure her immediate release."