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Eastbourne couple jailed for child neglect

An Eastbourne couple who systematically ill-treated seven children have each been jailed for six years following an investigation by Sussex Police safeguarding officers.

Police officers were called to their then address in Eastbourne after a report of a domestic incident there at 11.40pm on 14 June 2021.

They were appalled at the filthy condition of the house, from which 35 dogs were also taken into safe keeping.

Christopher Bennett, 35, and Gemma Brogan, 41, were sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on Friday 4 November having pleaded guilty on 9 May to seven counts of child neglect. 

Detective Constable Fiona Ashcroft of the East Sussex Safeguarding Investigations Unit said: “Upon entering the address, our officers were shocked about the state of the property and had major concerns for the welfare of all the children. The stench, as you entered the hallway, hit officers hard – they were not able to breath normally due to the stench. The state of the whole house was shocking and repugnant – it was cluttered and was strewn with discarded clothing, litter, rotting food and animal faeces. It looked as if it had been filthy for a number of years. 

“There was a deafening sound of dogs yapping and barking coming from the room in front of the hallway. When the door to the living room was opened, officers were shocked to see dozens of dogs climbing over each other to try and reach the open door.  All the dogs looked malnourished and skinny. Their fur was greasy, matted and covered in each other’s faeces. In amongst the filth and melee of dogs, officers removed a sleeping child from the sofa, who was dressed in just a soiled nappy and had dogs jumping all over them.

“All seven children, then aged between four and 17, were immediately taken into emergency protection and following partnership working with the local authority children’s services they were subsequently rehoused. The four youngest children are now living with supportive families and are learning all the principle social, mobility and life skills that our society hinges on.

“This was a particularly dreadful example of child neglect. The address is a three-bedroom property which had 10 occupants and 35 dogs crammed in. It is impossible to paint an accurate picture of the full extent of degradation and filth these vulnerable children had to endure. It is unequivocally one of the most awful addresses I have ever been in.” 

The RSPCA were also called to the address and removed the 35 dogs and one deceased dog and took them into their care. They have subsequently been rehomed.

Both Bennett and Brogan pleaded guilty to animal cruelty after being prosecuted by the RSPCA during separate cases in February and August this year.

Brogan was sentenced to an 18-week prison sentence suspended for two years. She was given a five-year ban for all animals, 30 Rehabilitation Activity days and 100 hours of community service work. Bennett was sentenced to 18 weeks’ imprisonment and was disqualified indefinitely from keeping all animals. 

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