Nine-month-old baby left 'severely emaciated' by Blackburn parents

Blackburn Citizen: Megan Tomlinson, 21, and Benjamin Henry, 23, Megan Tomlinson, 21, and Benjamin Henry, 23,

A NINE-MONTH-OLD baby was left 'severely emaciated' by his parents who failed to feed him properly.

Little Joshua Henry was so small when he was eventually taken into care that he weighed less than two thirds of what he should have, a court heard.

His mother Megan Tomlinson, 21, and father Benjamin Henry, 23, from Blackburn, admitted wilfully neglecting the child and were handed a suspended prison sentence by a judge yesterday.

An earlier hearing had heard that if Joshua had been left any longer without food, medical staff could have been faced with a potential fatality.

Kathryn Johnson, prosecuting at Preston Crown court yesterday, said: “Joshua was examined by a paediatric consultant and following that, he was found to be severely emaciated with very thin arms, legs and wasted buttocks.

“He was described as very quiet and watchful.

“A number of tests were carried out and no underlying cause of his weight loss has been discovered.”

Judge Michael Byrne was told how Joshua was born five weeks prematurely in August 2012.

When he was discharged, follow-up appointments were arranged, but Tomlinson and Henry, both of Albany Road, Blackburn, failed to take Joshua to any of them.

A health visitor met the family at home in September 2012, when Joshua’s weight was recorded as being normal.

Two months later, Tomlinson took her son to the GP, where his weight was described as static. She then failed to take Joshua to an urgent weigh in appointment with the health visitor due to her ‘low mood’, the court heard.

At a later appointment Tomlinson complained of having felt like she had not bonded with her baby and she was provisionally diagnosed with post natal depression.

Miss Johnson said: “She complained of low mood and admitted to wanting to smother Joshua when he was crying.”

Tomlinson and Henry then moved to Blackburn from Preston with their daughter Chloe.

The court was told how the defendants failed to register themselves or their children with a GP and missed a number of appointments.

An unannounced home visit was set up in April and the health visitor found that Joshua had dropped down two growth centiles.

Miss Johnson said: “He was now well below his expected weight at this age.”

In May 2013, a health visitor discovered that Joshua had again lost weight.

It was also found he had eczema, which Tomlinson admitted she was not using any cream to treat.

The baby was taken into care, where doctors found he weighed 60 per cent of what he should have.

According to World Health Organisation data, an average nine-month-old boy weighs between 18.2lbs and 21.1lbs.

Mark Stuart, defending Tomlinson, said Joshua had been suffering from a condition which meant he could not properly feed.

He said: “She should have done better than she did. It is as simple as that.

“But there is no question of non-accidental injury and there is no question she was deliberately trying to starve the child.”

Daniel Prowse, for Henry, said: “This is a defendant who finds it very difficult to accept he has failed his son.

“He wants help to be a better father.”

Both defendants were sentenced to 32 weeks imprisonment suspended for two years and a two-year supervision order. Tomlinson was also ordered to take part in a women’s specific activity requirement.

Joshua and his sister are now described as ‘doing brilliantly’.

Judge Byrne said: “It is the case against both defendants that Joshua’s weight loss was as a result of two features. One, the wilful neglect of both the defendants in failing to perceive the inadequacy of his feeding and failing to feed him appropriately.

“Secondly, this was compounded by their failure to seek any adequate medical assistance for their child.”

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