A couple who were paid £84,000 a year in benefits while letting their seven children live in ‘shocking’ conditions with 35 dogs crammed into a filthy house have been jailed for a combined total of 12 years. Christopher Bennett, 35, and Gemma Brogan, 41, lived in a three-bedroom property in Eastbourne, East Sussex, which was cluttered and strewn with discarded clothing, litter, rotting food and animal faeces.
Police officers were called to the home after reports of a domestic incident on June 14, 2021, and were shocked about what they saw and had major concerns for the welfare of the children.
They 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, Lewes Crown Court heard.
And the officers struggled to breathe as they entered the hallway because of the stench in the property.
Detective Constable Fiona Ashcroft of the East Sussex Safeguarding Investigations Unit 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.
“The state of the whole house was shocking and repugnant. 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, who were then aged between four and 17, were immediately taken into emergency protection and have now been rehoused.
DC Ashcroft added: “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.
“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.”
Bennett and Brogan were each sentenced to six years at the court on Friday (November 4) after both pleading guilty to seven counts of child neglect on May 9.
They also admitted animal cruelty after being prosecuted by the RSPCA.
Brighton Argus reports that upon sentencing the couple Judge Stephen Mooney said they had put themselves first while the couple lived in squalor.
He told them: “You frittered away £7,000 a month which should have been spent on the children.
“It is impossible for any person to comprehend the enormity of your failings.
“How do you have 35 dogs, £7,000 in benefits, how is this allowed to happen?”
The RSPCA removed the 35 dogs, which have been rehomed, and a dead dog.
For the animal cruelty offences, Brogan was banned from keeping animals for five years and Bennett was disqualified indefinitely from keeping all animals.