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http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/feb/16/childrensservices.uknews

Toddlers filmed being made to fight by mother

Helen Pidd 16th February 2007

A mother who forced her three-year-old daughter and two-year-old son to fight each other and laughed with three other women as the action was filmed pleaded guilty to child cruelty charges yesterday.

The film of the seven-minute fight at a house on a council estate in Plymouth, Devon, was found by social services checking on the children's welfare. The police said everyone who saw the footage was "shocked and stunned".

Plymouth magistrates court was shown a film of the fight. The boy is wearing a nappy. The children are encouraged to punch each other repeatedly by the women, who cannot be named for legal reasons. When the boy cries after being punched in the face, he is told by a woman not to be "a wimp or a faggot" and to hit his sister back. The women laugh as they urge the toddlers to keep fighting.

At one stage the boy tries to escape and climb into an armchair and the women shout at his sister to punch him again. When she hits him, the boy is urged to fight back but says: "No, I don't want to."

The children's mother admitted causing or procuring the children to be ill-treated in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury. The other three pleaded guilty to jointly inciting the ill treatment. The court was told that one of the women told police she thought it would be "character building".

All four were released on conditional bail and sentencing was adjourned until March 16 for reports. Claire Crocker, prosecuting, said: "All sentencing options are still open, the women could be given a community penalty or it could be sent to the crown court for sentence."

Detective Sergeant Andy Kings of the Devon and Cornwall police child protection team said: "Every professional that has seen this has been shocked and stunned. Locally this is something that is new to us, but we are aware that similar incidents have occurred elsewhere in the country and it is something people need to be aware of."

Plymouth social services said the children were not known to their department previously but were now safe.

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