A couple who were paid £7,000 a month in benefits who let their seven children live in ‘repugnant’ conditions in a house crammed with 35 dogs have been jailed for six years each.
Christopher Bennett, 35, and Gemma Brogan, 41, were sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty at Lewes Crown Court to seven counts of child neglect.
They also admitted animal cruelty after being prosecuted by the RSPCA.
Police officers were called to their house in Eastbourne, East Sussex, after reports of a domestic incident on June 14, 2021 — and were appalled at the conditions inside.
Officers winced when they realised that a filthy, neglected seven-year-old asleep on a sofa near a dead dog was covered in animal faeces.
The child, who was naked apart from a nappy with her hair matted and filthy, had been severely neglected for years, the court heard.
Seven children, aged between four and 17, as well as 35 dogs were removed from the home and taken into care, with the four youngest children now living with supportive families.
Gemma Brogan, 41, and Christopher Bennett, 35, were sentenced to six years after pleading guilty at Lewes Crown Court to seven counts of child neglect
Detective Constable Ashcroft said the home looked as though it had been ‘filthy for a number of years’. Pictured, a dog on soiled towels
Addressing Lewes Crown Court, Judge Stephen Mooney said that Bennett and Brogan had ‘frittered away £7,000 a month which should have been spent on the children’.
The couple would have been receiving £84,000 in benefits each year.
Judge Mooney added: ‘It is impossible for any person to comprehend the enormity of your failings.
‘Whatever was going on in their relationship, they should have been looking after those children. How do you have 35 dogs, £7000 in benefits, how is this allowed to happen?’
Police were called to the defendants’ address in Eastbourne, East Sussex, on June 14 2021, to a report of a domestic incident when officers found the seven children and the 35 dogs.
Detective Constable Fiona Ashcroft, of Sussex Police, said: ‘Upon entering the address, our officers were shocked about the state of the property and had major concerns for the welfare of all the children.
Bennett at Lewes Crown Court. Detective Constable Fiona Ashcroft, of Sussex Police, described the couple’s house as ‘shocking and repugnant’
A sleeping child in only a soiled nappy was lying on the sofa next to a dead dog. pictured, the dogs at the property
‘The stench as you entered the hallway hit officers hard; they were not able to breath normally due to the stench.
‘The state of the whole house was shocking and repugnant; it was cluttered and was strewn with discarded clothing, litter, rotting food and animal faeces.
‘It looked as if it had been filthy for a number of years.
‘There was a deafening sound of dogs yapping and barking coming from the room in front of the hallway.
‘When the door to the living room was opened, officers were shocked to see dozens of dogs climbing over each other to try and reach the open door.
‘All the dogs looked malnourished and skinny. Their fur was greasy, matted and covered in each other’s faeces.
‘In amongst the filth and melee of dogs, officers removed a sleeping child from the sofa, who was dressed in just a soiled nappy and had dogs jumping all over them.
‘All seven children, then aged between four and 17, were immediately taken into emergency protection and, following partnership working with the local authority children’s services, they were subsequently rehoused.
Detective Constable Ashcroft said there was a deafening sound of dogs barking in the house
The couple had ‘crammed in’ 35 dogs, which were removed and rehomed by the RSPCA
When officers entered the property, they saw dozens of dogs climbing over each other to try and reach the open door
‘The four youngest children are now living with supportive families and are learning all the principle social, mobility and life skills that our society hinges on.
‘This was a particularly dreadful example of child neglect. The address is a three-bedroom property which had 10 occupants and 35 dogs crammed in.
‘It is impossible to paint an accurate picture of the full extent of degradation and filth these vulnerable children had to endure. It is unequivocally one of the most awful addresses I have ever been in.’
The RSPCA removed the 35 dogs, which have been rehomed, and a dead dog.
For the animal cruelty offences, Brogan was sentenced to an 18-week prison sentence suspended for two years.
She was given a five-year ban for all animals, 30 rehabilitation activity days and 100 hours’ community service work.
Bennett was sentenced to 18 weeks’ imprisonment and was disqualified indefinitely from keeping all animals.