Smoking toddler's mother guilty

BBC News
22 January 2009

A three-year-old boy lit a cigarette butt and smoked it in front of his mother, a court has been told.

It was filmed on a mobile and passed to social services by Kelly Marie Pocock's friend, Merthyr Crown Court heard.

The friend earlier spotted him smoking a cigarette and said it looked like he had been "smoking for many years".

The judge said it was an appalling case and Pocock, from Merthyr Vale, was sentenced to 40 weeks suspended for two years after admitting child cruelty.

But Judge John Curran said he did not jail Pocock because of her "considerable efforts" since the incident.

Prosecutor Jonathan Rees told the court Pocock's friend Natasha Dudley filmed the events after visiting her home just after Christmas 2007.

Mr Rees said Ms Dudley had gone looking for the boy after he had been missing for 30 minutes.

It is clear that the boy, at the age of three, knows what to do with a lighter and cigarette
Jonathan Rees, prosecuting

"She found him underneath the bed with some cigarettes," said Mr Rees.

"He was actually smoking one at the time and Ms Dudley said it looked like he had been smoking for many years."

The court heard that when the boy was taken downstairs he went into the living room where he picked up a cigarette butt from an ashtray and smoked it.

Mr Rees said at this point, Pocock was having a telephone conversation so Ms Dudley decided to film the boy, such was her concern.

"The video demonstrates the boy placing a cigarette into his mouth, lighting it with a lighter and sucking, drawing smoke clearly into the lungs and he seems to do it with some accomplishment," said Mr Rees.

"It doesn't cause him any discomfort. He is sat on a chair close to the mother, who is talking on the phone.

"It is clear that the boy, at the age of three, knows what to do with a lighter and cigarette."

The video was forwarded to social services who then referred the matter to the police.

In interview, Pocock told officers that she did not appreciate the fact that her son was smoking as she was on the telephone.

She also told officers that she was "shocked" when the matter was drawn to her attention.

After being charged, Pocock entered a guilty plea on the basis that she had not seen her son smoking before and had not been told of the incident underneath the bed by Ms Dudley.

I don't see how, despite your basis of plea, you could have been unaware of the fact Judge John Curran

Claire Wilks, defending, asked Judge Curran to bear in mind the early guilty plea by her client.

"Fortunately time has now passed and in that time the defendant has been able to prove herself both to her children and, perhaps more importantly, their social worker," said Ms Wilks.

The court heard she had attended six parenting courses since the incident.

Judge Curran said the case was one of the most "extraordinary" he had ever come across.

The judge said the boy would not have been able to smoke without discomfort "unless he had acquired a habit".

"This is an appalling situation and I don't see how, despite your basis of plea, you could have been unaware of the fact," said Judge Curran.

The judge added that while the offence would normally cross the custody threshold, he did not want to cause her children any further emotional harm by separating them from their mother.

Apart from the suspended sentence, Judge Curran imposed a 12-month supervision requirement.

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