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Monday, May 13, 2013
I've read about people dying in house fires because their clutter wouldn't allow them to get out or be rescued. This is the first I've read about hoarding becoming child cruelty. The following details an English couple narrowly escaping prison because of their excessive possessions.
"A couple whose obsessive hoarding cluttered the house until their four children had to eat their meals on the stairs, have narrowly avoided a prison sentence.
A man aged 47 and his partner aged 46 were described as 'slovenly' yesterday by a judge who had been shown pictures of their home. Piles of clothes filled the bedrooms, and toys and bric-a-brac picked up at car boot sales made conditions cramped throughout the house.
The couple, from Bedfordshire, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey in Central London to four charges of child cruelty by providing inappropriate living conditions for the children between September 2007 and September 2011.
Judge John Bevan said that the couple appeared to blame each other and told them that they were lucky not to have been sent to prison.
'The evidence demonstrates, and one only has to look at the photographs, that you were slovenly,' he said. 'The photographs are dreadful. There was nowhere to eat food other than on the stairs.'
Police and social workers who visited the three-bedroom terrace house found the children eating their meals on the stairs because the kitchen was so cluttered. The children, who are all aged under 16, cannot be identified for legal reasons.
Judge Bevan told the father: 'As an ambulance technician, you should have known better.'
Addressing the mother, he said: 'You were addicted to car boot sales and clutter. The children were unkempt and untidy. Despite claiming you were suffering depression, you were not prevented from going to car boot sales and making the situation worse and worse.'
They were given six-month suspended prison sentences and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work each, in what is believed to be a first such ruling related to hoarding.
Charles Ward-Jackson, for the prosecution, said the house was 'extremely untidy' but that it was clean. The couple ignored repeated warnings after social workers visited the house on a number of occasions.
Judge Bevan said: 'He has got money problems — she seems to spend it all at car boot sales. She shows a number of characteristics common in individuals who hoard, frequently shopping, visiting car boot sales on a weekly basis.'
Bozzie Sheffi, representing the mother, said that her client suffered from depression and was exhausted.
The couple had appeared in court after being bailed, and Judge Bevan told them: 'You can count yourselves fortunate that you are leaving by the same door you came in through.'"
More on hoarding:
Are You Turning into a Hoarder? Find Out.
5 Causes of Disorganization
Hoarding - There are No Easy Answers!