14/08/2014 16:53 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Jail For Mum Of Children So Neglected And Starving They Stole Food From School

A judge has jailed a 28-year-old heroin addict mum-of-three for two years after hearing how her eldest child stole food from school and attempted to provide for her toddler siblings at home.

The mother – whose name has not been revealed – was given a suspended sentence for child cruelty charges back in June, but was handed a custodial sentence at Cardiff Crown Court yesterday after admitting more offences, including theft.

The court was told that her eldest child, a girl of 10, had been caught stealing food from other children at her primary school. Teachers were already giving her extra helpings of school dinner because she was so hungry, and had bought her a uniform because her mother hadn't provided her with one.

Wales Online reports that all three children were encouraged to shoplift when they went out with their mum in order to fund her £20-a-day drug habit.

The 10-year-old girl told the police that she attempted to cook for and look after her younger brother and sister when their mum left them home alone.

She and one of the younger children were so neglected that untreated head lice were found burrowing in their skin, resulting in their father taking them to an accident and emergency department when he had them on a weekend access visit. An emergency protection order was put in place after all three children were reported as looking 'sad, pale' tired and gaunt' by a consultant paediatrician.

At her previous hearing in June, the mother had been told she had betrayed her responsibility and her family with her behaviour. She was spared jail and ordered into rehab, but carried out a distraction burglary on a pensioner within three or four weeks of that sentence being imposed.

Yesterday, judge Huw Davies QC jailed her for two years, activating the previous 16-month suspended sentence, and adding a further nine months for burglary and shoplifting charges.

He told her that her choice to take heroin had taken over her life and destroyed it.

Her defence team said she had led an 'unblemished life' until she began using heroin two years ago because of an abusive relationship.

However, the judge told her that neglecting her children because of her drug habit was no excuse and that justice now required her whole sentence be served in full.