Child
The child’s weight was well below that of a normal 12-year-old and her growth had been affected by her poor diet iStock

A couple who subjected a girl to years of cruelty and starvation including forcing her to sleep outside have been jailed. The girl's mother and stepfather admitted to wilful neglect and cruelty of a child in their care after she was found to have suffered abuse for more than three years until she was eventually taken into care aged 12.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard how the girl had been singled out from her siblings by the pair, denied food, clean clothes and even a bed to sleep in. By the time she was removed from the couple's care and placed into a foster home, the girl was found to be malnourished and under the normal weight of a 12-year-old.

She was also suffering from trench foot – a term which stemmed from soldiers fighting in WW1 whose feet were damaged, swollen and even decayed after standing and sleeping in damp conditions for long periods of time.

The court heard how the girl had been locked out of the family home and made to sleep in an outhouse without adequate bedding well into the autumn months when temperatures dipped to almost freezing point.

The victim, now aged 16, was also found to have an untreated skin infection and a severe case of head lice. She was also reported to have been spotted taking food from bins and asking strangers for money to buy something to eat.

The man and woman, aged 44 and 40, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted the cruelty of a child aged under 16. They have now both been sentenced to four years and three months in jail.

West Midlands Police detective sergeant Catherine Loosemore, from the force's Public Protection Unit, said: "As soon as we were alerted to the child's ill-treatment, we moved swiftly to arrest those responsible for her well-being.

"They initially denied the abuse, saying that it was the girl's choice to sleep outside and that she was fed, but made herself sick, accounting for her small frame. At the time she was wearing the clothes of a seven-year-old and these were dirty and secondhand.

"As soon as she was taken into foster care, she quickly began to gain weight and slowly felt safe enough to talk about how she had been bullied at school as a result of her home life and poor hygiene.

"She had been frightened of her stepfather who had threatened her on many occasions and she couldn't understand why she alone suffered this abuse. Although she has recovered physically, the mental scars remain, but I hope with time and the happy home she now finds herself in, she will be able to feel the love and stability that she deserves."

child cruelty
The outhouse where the girl slept has now been filled with rubbish West Midlands Police