Parents jailed for four years after regime of cruelty

Deborah Harrison (left) Jennifer Harrison (right)
Deborah Harrison (left) Jennifer Harrison (right)

Two parents have been jailed for four years for starving their teenage daughter of food and showing no remorse after repeatedly hitting her with a hammer 34 times.

Deborah Harrison, 37, and the girl’s step-mother Jennifer Harrison, 30, banned their 16-year-old daughter from eating food in the house as part of regime of cruelty resenting her interference in their love life.

Sentencing at Hull Crown Court, (May 26) Judge Simon Jack said: “I take the view this must be the most serious case of actual bodily harm I have ever dealt with.

“There were injuries with a hammer. The victim was highly vulnerable and there were repeated blows. And she was degraded by the hammer being placed in the mouth.

“The abuse of power and a position of trust could not have been worse. She has not just lost her parents, but she was forced to move out the family home.”

The Harrisons made their daughter sleep in a dogs’ bed, punished her in a cold bath, pulled her hair, and forced her to gorge on porridge at their home in Railway Cottages, Bempton.

They stood a two-week trial at Hull Crown Court only to be convicted, after one hour and 40 minutes, of charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm on July 10, 2013.

Judge Simon Jack adjourned for sentence to allow step-mother Jennifer Harrison time to break the news of her jailing to their seven-year-old son. For the second time in two weeks, she failed to attend court – admitting herself to hospital complaining of illness. Crown barrister David Gordon said both women had shown no remorse for their crimes.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, the stepdaughter said: “This is the first time I have been able to feel like a human.”

She added: “As a result of the delay in the case I have not been able to see my grandmother or my brother as they were both defence witnesses. When I reported this, Jennifer said that no matter where I was, they would find and kill me. I felt used and lied to. Now I want to build a life for myself.”

Defence barrister Claire Holmes said Jennifer Harrison was most concerned about the fate of her five dogs and cat if she were to be jailed. She said she was plagued by physical problems and fearful of custody. She said her son now lives with her mother and being sent to jail would have an affect on him.

Judge Simon Jack refused to defer sentence and told Deborah Harrison: “I make it clear that I am sentencing you for the assault. The jury raised the question why were you not charged with cruelty. I fully understand this, but the fact is you were not.

“On 20th July 2013 I am satisfied Jennifer Harrison lead the way. You not only let her, but inflicted blows yourself. Both of you should have been in a position to protect her and not expected to inflict violence.”

The crown said the girl was effectively abandoned by Deborah as she left for Edinburgh to start a new life with Jennifer when she was nine. Faced with losing care, she did eventually join them – but Jennifer Harrison resented her after their civil marriage in 2012.

The court heard the girl has returned to studying and is trying to rebuild her life with the help of counselling. She was not in court to see her mother led away to cells in handcuffs. Jennifer Harrsion will join her once she is released from hospital.