A THREE-YEAR-OLD boy was hours from death after what a judge described as “abusive and sadistic behaviour”, by his mother and her partner.

Cardiff Crown Court heard the boy was kept in a “bare cell-like room”, had injuries all over his body, ripped out and ate his own hair because he was so hungry and was close to death because of hypothermia and dehydration.

The youngster has since been adopted and Judge John Curran lifted reporting restrictions so his mother, Lisa Brooks, 25, of Beeches Road, Trevethin, and her partner, Tomas Rhys Lewis, 22, of Commercial Street, Griffithstown, could be named. The couple pleaded guilty to wilful neglect of a child and prosecutor Hywel Hughes described police officers being moved to tears after discovering the boy on December 3, 2010.

Social worker Emma Lawler received a number of anonymous tip-offs and after repeatedly getting no reply at the couple’s Beeches Road, Trevethin, address, called police.

Mr Hughes read a statement from PC James Periam, who found the boy locked in “a bare cell-like room”, with no lighting, the radiator turned off at a time when it was snowing outside and containing only a potty, bowl and fork.

The child and walls were covered in faeces and when an officer held the boy, he was described as “flopping on her shoulder, his eyes rolled to the back of his head, with his breathing shallow”.

He had two black eyes, a one-inch gash on his forehead, ligature marks on his arms frombeing tied to a bed and was “ice cold” with PC Periam describing him as “lifeless”.

He was taken to Nevill Hall Hospital, Abergavenny, and ward manager Ann Beard said: “If he was not brought in when he was, he would have died in hours. The weather was so cold outside.”

Doctor Paul Davies described him as “eating food like he’d never eaten before” and as well as extensive cuts and bruising all over his body, he noted patchy hair loss, adding: “He had eaten his own hair, he was extremely hungry and dehydrated”.

The defendants told police the boy was put in the room because he harmed himself and they were fearful he would harm their baby.

The court was shown mobile phone footage they had taken to illustrate this.

It showed the boy naked in the room crying and hitting himself, with the defendants ordering him to stand facing the wall and saying he would not have any breakfast if he didn’t do so.

For Lewis, Hugh Wallace said “he recognises what he did was despicable” while for Brooks,MatthewRoberts said: “they were unable to cope”. Judge Curran heard the boy has been adopted and shows no sign of psychological damage.

He said: “All children are entitled to a secure and happy childhood. Depriving them of this is very serious.

It was abusive and sadistic behaviour.” He sentenced Lewis to three-and-a-half years and Brooks to three years in prison because of an earlier guilty plea. They must serve half in custody before being considered for parole.


Horror over details of child’s neglect

FOLLOWING the case, DI Mark Johnson, of Gwent Police’s public protection unit, described the neglect of the boy as “horrific”, adding: “There is no doubt the action taken by the agencies involved ultimately helped to avert a tragedy.”

● The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s head of service for Wales, Des Mannion, called it “a disturbing case”, adding: “This vulnerable child had been subjected to living in horrific conditions, locked in a room for extended periods by the adults who should have loved and protected him.”

Mr Mannion said the situation is not unique, with almost one in ten children in the UK neglected. He urged any parents who feel they can’t cope to seek support or anyone who suspects a child is being abused to phone police, or the NSPCC on 0808 8005000.

● Trevethin councillor Lewis Jones said he is “appalled” by what happened, saying the situation could have been avoided if they had asked for help.

● South Wales East AM William Graham praised the intervention of the social worker and police. He said the sentence reflects that child abuse will not be tolerated.

● Lindsay Whittle, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales East and spokesman for Social Services, Children and Equal Opportunities, said: “In these cases, it is important that parents who are having difficulties seek the support and help which is available from the authorities.”


EDITORIAL COMMENT: Sentences hardly seem like justice

UTTERLY sickening. There is no other way to describe the behaviour of Lisa Brooks and Tomas Rhys Lewis.

As we reveal today, this vile couple have been jailed for their abusive and sadistic behaviour towards Brooks’ three-year-old son.

The poor mite was kept as a prisoner in his own home, locked in a room without heat or light during one of the coldest winters in living memory.

He was tied to a bed in a room containing only a potty, a bowl and a fork. And he was so hungry he had begun to eat his own hair.

The toddler was rescued by police and social services in the nick of time. The hospital staff who provided immediate care for him say he was just hours from death.

Thankfully the boy – who we have decided not to name – has now been adopted and is thriving thanks to the love and care of his new family.

That he was saved from a living hell and almost certain death are reasons enough to be grateful to the police and social services.

We have a slight concern that it took a number of fruitless visits to the family home by social workers before police were called in to help, though it would be unfair to criticise without knowing the gravity of the allegations they were investigating.

We are more concerned with the charges faced by Brooks and Lewis and the jail sentences they received as a result.

“Causing unnecessary suffering to a child” hardly seems adequate when the child in question has been left on the brink of death.

If this young boy had remained with this callous couple for just a few more hours we would have been reporting a Baby P-style case.

And yet Lewis could be out of jail in less than two years and Brooks could be free within 18 months. It hardly seems like justice.

There may be good reasons for both the charges and the sentences. Some form of plea bargaining may have been involved. We do not know.

What we do know, however, is that many people reading our story today will question what appear to be relatively light sentences handed out to Brooks and Lewis given the horrific treatment they meted out to a defenceless child.

There is no defence for what they did. There is no excuse for their actions. They deserve nothing but contempt.