FENLAND: Couple jailed for child cruelty after repeatedly hitting four children in their care

PUBLISHED: 11:12 03 November 2008 | UPDATED: 11:43 29 April 2010

A COUPLE who repeatedly punched and hit four challenging children in their care were both beginning jail sentences today.

Maria Campbell, 59, adopted children for many years but struggled to cope with the troubled children she agreed to look after with

A COUPLE who repeatedly punched and hit four "challenging" children in their care were both beginning jail sentences today.

Maria Campbell, 59, adopted children for many years but struggled to cope with the troubled children she agreed to look after with her husband, Trevor.

The couple took on four "disruptive" children over a period of two years at their home in Lakes End, near Wisbech, and resorted to reprimanding them with smacking, punching and beating with a leather belt.

Norwich Crown Court heard on Friday that Campbell had previously admitted four counts of cruelty to children and her husband admitted three counts.

Judge Paul Downes jailed her for six months and him for five months.

Matthew McNiff, prosecuting, said: "Each of the children did offer challenges to those who took them on. What is not acceptable is the mechanisms chosen by each of them to deal with young, vulnerable, troubled and - at times - troubling children."

The court heard that when interviewed one of the children described his first year with the couple as "absolutely nice" but things then became "rough" and "it began to hurt".

On one occasion the Campbells were called to school where he was being disruptive and she was heard to say she was going to beat him. She grabbed the child by the collar to "forcibly" drag him towards the car and her husband was heard to say "don't do this here". The boy struggled and appeared to bite her, and she grabbed a crutch and hit him. When he cried out, she swore at him.

On other occasions he was punched by Mrs Campbell and hit with a belt.

Another boy said he had been hit a number of times and it left marks or bruises, and the use of the leather belt left scratches and bruises over his legs.

A girl said she had been hit across the face by Mrs Campbell because she would not stop crying after she suffered a nosebleed.

Another girl said Mr Campbell would put her over his knee and smack her repeatedly because she had a habit of crying at night.

Neil Guest, for Mrs Campbell, said she had been look after children in care for 20 years and had an exemplary record but struggled to cope with the four particularly challenging children when her health and her relationship with her husband were deteriorating.

"When it comes to the looking after disruptive children, one has to question who decided she could cope and whether that was realistic," he said.

Alison Gin, for Mr Campbell, said he was ashamed of using physical force on the children but "was not prepared for the challenges they presented or equipped to deal with them".

Judge Paul Downes said they had besmirched the reputation of "unsung heroes" who look after such children.

"How on earth you thought you could cope I cannot imagine and how anyone could leave these children with you, but that's what happened," he said.


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