Couple jailed for abusing daughter

A COUPLE who subjected their disabled daughter to a catalogue of horrific violence and abuse have been jailed for 22 years.

Samuel Duncan, 27, and his 23-year-old partner, Kimberly Harte, inflicted weeks of systematic torture on their four-year-old, in what was described by police as one of the worst cases of child abuse they have seen.

The child, who was born prematurely with cerebral palsy, was kicked, scalded and had chunks of her hair ripped from her scalp.

She was even locked in the toilet at night and forced to eat her own faeces.

The couple, from Maida Vale, London, admitted three counts of child cruelty and were imprisoned for 10 and 11 years respectively.

They had denied charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent between February 1 and March 18 last year, but were convicted after a trial last December.

Detective Sergeant Anthony Smith, from the Central Child Abuse team, said: “This is without doubt one of the worst cases of child abuse I have had to deal with.

“When I met the young girl she was in a terrible condition. I am happy to report that she has improved dramatically with the care she’s been receiving.”

Sentencing at Middlesex Crown Court yesterday, Judge Paul Worsley told the pair: “You betrayed her trust, her love, her childhood.”

He added: “The physical scars may well heal in time, but I doubt the mental scars ever will.

“No tear of remorse has been shown by either of you for what you did.”

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been taken away by Westminster social services and put into foster care in February 2005.

But she was returned to the couple just under a year later despite concerns of the foster parents for her safety.

A month later the catalogue of abuse began, lasting seven weeks.

The injuries she sustained during that time were “so horrific” she would almost certainly have died if it had gone on, the court heard.

Police were alerted to the abuse by the child’s grandmother.

The hearing has lead to calls for a public inquiry into Westminster social services’ handling of the case.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of Westminster’s opposition Labour Group, said: “We believe there needs to be an inquiry into the circumstances of how this baby girl was allowed to go back to her parents.

“There appears on this occasion to have been no shortage of experts involved but they appear to have got it very badly wrong.”

However, an independent review conducted into the case found no individual to be to blame.

Julie Jones, head of Westminster’s Safeguarding Children Board, said doctors, social workers and health visitors had visited the family on up to 20 occasions leading up to the abuse and none had seen any warning signs.

“No one predicted this physical violence. It was a terrible shock to everyone,” she said.

She added: “We did out best.

“I think the independent review confirms that there was no malpractice here.”