A single mother has been sentenced to four years in jail in the UK for confining her able-bodied son to wheelchair for five years as she feared he would become independent and leave her.
The 31-year-old Middlesbrough woman told doctors at James Cook University Hospital her young son had convulsions and fits, joint aches and constipation between 1999 and 2006, Teesside Crown Court heard.
AdvertisementShe started pushing the toddler around in a wheelchair and told family and friends that he needed the device because he regularly had fits and suffered from painful swelling in his joints.
The mother took her son to her GP and persuaded him to prescribe medication after claiming her son was suffering from chronic constipation and was having regular fits.
The GP referred the boy to hospital and he was examined by paediatricians seven times.
They carried out numerous blood tests, but could find no explanation for his apparent illness.
The boy was then treated for the fabricated ailments - when there was nothing wrong with him. As a result of the mother's actions the child, who is now 11, was made to use a wheelchair for years and underwent a series of unnecessary surgical operations.
She then gave the boy overdoses of the medication - an anti-depressant drug named Anatryptaline. The court heard that in October 2006 the child was rushed to James Cook by ambulance staff and was comatose.
Ambulance crews who attended her home, in Middlesbrough, Teeside, reported her behaviour after they caught her trying to hide the medication from them.
Police were called and she was arrested.
Prosecutor Peter Makepeace said this was when the police became involved and interviewed the boy: "He stated he believed he had been poisoned by his mother's partner because that partner hated him. He then confirmed it was only his mother who gave him his medication."
The barrister added that the mother tried to pin the poisoning episode on her partner when she was interviewed by police. The woman pleaded guilty to three charges of child abuse and one of poisoning and endangering life.
Defence barrister Peter Johnson said: "She is appalled and ashamed of what she has done."
Johnson said even psychiatrists had struggled to find the woman's motivation. He added that they believed she wanted to make the child entirely dependant on her.
Monday Judge Les Spittle jailed the mother, who can't be named for legal reasons, for four years and banned her from working with children for the rest of her life.
He told her: "You robbed him of a normal childhood for your own selfish purposes.
"You wanted to make your child dependent upon you. The way you chose to do that was effectively make him ill when he wasn't. There was nothing at all wrong with him.
Of the poisoning, Judge Spittle said: "At the end when he was finally taken into hospital his level of poisoning and toxicity was such that he was not all that far from potential death."
The court was told the boy has suffered no lasting medical problems from his mistreatment.
Detective Constable Nicky White, from Middlesbrough child protection unit, said: "This was a horrific and upsetting case for the child protection unit and our medical colleagues.
"There has been over 18 months of extensive work by ourselves and our partners and I am pleased the young child did not have to go through a court appearance.
"The sentence passed today sends out a strong message that those who seek to harm the most vulnerable members of society can expect to serve time in prison."
The boy now lives with other family members.
Psychiatrists who examined the woman said that she was not mentally ill.