Child neglect couple lived in ‘repugnant house’ with seven kids and 35 dogs

Christopher Bennett and Gemma Brogan were each sentenced to six year in prison having pleaded guilty to seven counts of child neglect. (Sussex Police)
Christopher Bennett and Gemma Brogan were each sentenced to six year in prison having pleaded guilty to seven counts of child neglect. (Sussex Police)

A couple have been jailed for child neglect after their seven children were found living in "shocking and repugnant" surroundings, amidst rotting food and the faeces of 35 dogs.

Christopher Bennett, 35, and Gemma Brogan, 41, both pleaded guilty to seven counts of child neglect. They had both admitted animal cruelty at earlier hearings.

Lewes Crown Court heard that police were alerted to the situation after being called to reports of a domestic incident at their home in Eastbourne, East Sussex, in June 2021.

An investigation by Sussex Police safeguarding officers followed after officers reported the condition of the house, from which 35 dogs were also taken into safe keeping.

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 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."

DC Ashcroft said officers heard a "deafening sound of dogs yapping and barking" and upon entering the living room "were shocked to see dozens of dogs climbing over each other to try and reach the open door".

View of the Lewes Crown Court, a courthouse in Lewes, East Sussex, England.
Lewes Crown Court heard that the 'stench' of the house made it hard to breathe when police entered. (Getty)

She added: "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.

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The four youngest children are now living with foster families and are "learning all the principle social, mobility and life skills that our society hinges on", said DC Ashcroft.

She added: "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 were also called to the address and removed 35 dogs, and one dead dog's body.

Both Bennett and Brogan pleaded guilty to animal cruelty after being prosecuted by the RSPCA during separate cases in February and August this year.

Brogan was sentenced to an 18-week prison sentence suspended for two years and was given a five-year ban for all animals, 30 rehabilitation activity days and 100 hours of community service work.

Bennett was sentenced to 18 weeks' imprisonment and was disqualified indefinitely from keeping all animals.