Liam Fee: Mother and partner given life sentences
A mother and her civil partner have been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her two-year-old son.
Rachel Fee, 31, must spend a minimum of 23-and-a-half years in jail and Nyomi Fee, 29, a minimum of 24 years for the murder and ill-treatment of Liam Fee.
The toddler, who was Rachel Fee's son, died at his home near Glenrothes, Fife, in March 2014.
He had suffered a ruptured heart as a result of severe blunt force trauma to his body.
The couple, originally from Ryton in Tyne and Wear, denied killing Liam, and instead blamed his death on one of two other young boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
They were sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh by judge Lord Burns, who told the pair they had "grossly abused" their parental responsibilities.
The judge added that the post-mortem examination showed that Liam had been "subjected to a prolonged course of violent behaviour".
And he said the couple had shown no remorse for the "cruel regime of neglect and ill treatment" that had inflicted appalling mental and physical harm on the two-year-old.
Brian McConnachie QC, defending Rachel Fee, said she believed there had been a "miscarriage of justice".
Mr McConnachie said the couple were being held in different prisons, with Rachel Fee being "to all intents and purposes" locked up for 24 hours a day for her own protection.
'Very much alone'
The only exception was a five-minute phone call in the evening "when the rest of the wing is locked down", he added.
Mr McConnachie added: "She's not allowed any other time out of her cell, including meal times.
"No doubt people will say she deserves nothing less but clearly that cannot be a long-term solution for someone who is going to receive a very lengthy punishment period."
He said his client had "effectively been disowned by her entire family", adding: "She is going to spend this very lengthy period of custody very much alone in the sense that there's really no-one to visit her, there's no-one to write to her, except perhaps her partner."
Mark Stewart QC, defending Nyomi Fee, said she accepted responsibility for the "unforgivable" neglect of Liam, but maintained she was innocent of murdering him.
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The couple displayed little emotion as their sentences were delivered, and there was silence in the packed courtroom as they were led away to the cells.
Liam's father Joseph Johnson looked straight ahead as the women were told the punishment parts of their life sentences.
A jury of eight women and six men had previously found Rachel and Nyomi Fee guilty by majority of assault and murder after a seven-week trial at the High Court in Livingston.
The jurors were excused from duty for 10 years due to the horrific evidence they faced during the trial.
Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC told the court the women were guilty of "unyielding, heartless cruelty".
In harrowing evidence, the jury heard Liam had suffered heart injuries similar to those found on road crash victims, with more than 30 external injuries on his body.
The court heard the pair knew Liam had a broken leg and fractured arm but instead of seeking help they searched the internet for terms including "how do you die of a broken hip?" and "can wives be in prison together?"
The couple were also convicted of a catalogue of abuse towards the two other boys, including imprisoning one in a home-made cage and tying another naked to a chair in a dark room with snakes and rats.
And they were found guilty of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by trying to blame Liam's death on one of the boys.
A former friend of the two women has told the BBC that no sentence would ever have been enough for the crime they had committed.
Gillian McCusker said: "They are going to be in jail for sometime but they don't even deserve a place in prison because they are still going to get everything paid for them and they are still going to get every day of their lives.
"It's not fair because they are going to come out and they are still going to have their own lives to lead and little Liam, where is he? Nowhere.
"He's not got a life. So it's never going to be enough, never."
A significant case review is being carried out into the circumstances leading up to Liam's death after a number of witnesses told the trial they had raised concerns about the toddler's health and wellbeing with social services.
Matt Forde of child protection charity NSPCC Scotland said it was vital that the investigation led to action being taken to prevent other children suffering as Liam had done.
He added: "The two boys who survived the abuse will need support, stability and love to help them come to terms with their experiences and begin to recover."
Alison Todd of Children 1st said: "Liam's plight has shocked Scotland. It will have taken tremendous courage for the two other boys involved to speak about their experiences.
"It is down to their bravery and the skills of the joint investigative interviewers in building the boys' trust that justice has been done in this terrible case."
Det Insp Rory Hamilton, of Police Scotland, said the sentences handed out to Rachel and Nyomi Fee reflected the seriousness of their crimes, and the commitment of the police and legal system to bring to justice those who commit acts of violence against the most vulnerable members of society.
He said "I would again commend the two young boys whose evidence played such a vital part in securing the convictions and bringing their abusers, and the women who murdered Liam, to justice."
Ian Sloan, councillor for Glenrothes Central and Thornton, said the case had caused a "profound sense of shock and horror" in the local community, and called for a "thorough review" into what happened.