Father escapes jail after child neglect led to pond drowning

PUBLISHED: 20:03 21 July 2011 | UPDATED: 14:27 22 July 2011

Archant

A FATHER from Wrington who found his child dead in a garden pond has escaped a jail sentence, despite admitting neglecting the child in the run up to his death.

Andrew Marshall, aged 22, of The Glebe found his son, Daniel Rees-Smith, face down in a garden pond after a night out with his on-off partner Charlotte Rees-Smith.

The parents of Daniel, aged two, had left him in the care of his grandmother Hilary Rees, but she had slipped into a drunken stupor on the sofa after drinking cider and taking anti-depressants.

The resident of Hanham, in Bristol, was later found to be three times the drink drive limit following the incident in June last year.

At Bristol Crown Court today (Thurs), Andrew Marshall, Charlotte Rees-Smith, aged 20, and Hilary Rees, 44, were sentenced after all admitting child neglect.

But they were handed suspended jail terms after His Honour Judge Maddison told them that losing little Daniel had given them a ’heavy burden’ to carry.

The hearing heard how Rees-Smith, from St George, Bristol, had given birth to Daniel aged 16 in 2008.

She was in an on and off relationship with his dad Marshall, from Wrington, and would seek help babysitting from mum Hilary up to four times a week.

Daniel would stay with the alcoholic but would frequently be left to wander around the house alone.

Rupert Lowe, prosecuting, described the house as littered with cat and dog faeces, foul smelling and infested with flies.

He said: “The death of daniel was the result of an accident, but he was the victim of negligence over the 14 months prior to his death.

“Hilary Rees has had serious alcohol concerns for many years. She was often found unconscious and it was difficult to raise her.

“When she was woken she often became aggressive and confrontational. Ashley Smith moved into her house as a lodger in April 2009 and frequently found Hilary Rees in that way, holding a bottle of cider.

“On many of these occasions she was meant to be looking after Daniel.”

On one occasion Ms Smith described finding Daniel crying in the kitchen - next to a flaming oven.

Hilary Rees was unconscious on the sofa.

Witnesses described the child as sometimes being unkempt and in the same dirty clothes.

On the evening of June 4, last year the two defendants had gone to the Cross Keys pub near Ms Rees’s Hanham home, before she returned with Daniel to look after him.

She had drunk at least three pints of cider, mixed with anti-depressants, and had fallen asleep on the sofa.

When Rees-Smith and Marshall returned to her home at 10.30pm, there was no sign of Daniel.

After a search, Marshall discovered him lying dead, face down in Ms Rees’ garden pond.

Police were called and they arrested the extremely distressed grandmother.

She was calculated to have been around three-times the legal drink drive limit and told them: “It’s my fault - I have killed my grandson.

“I was meant to be looking after him.”

All three were later arrested and charged with manslaughter and child neglect.

The manslaughter charges were dropped after a court hearing last week.

Rees and Rees Smith admitted child neglect between April 2009 and June 4 2010.

Rees was handed a 12-month jail term suspended for two years and a two year supervision order.

Rees-Smith was given 32 weeks in prison suspended for two years and two years supervision.

Marshall admitted the same offence relating to the night of his son’s death.

He was sentenced to 18 weeks suspended for two years and two years supervision.

All three refused to comment when leaving court.

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