09/06/2015 19:05 BST | Updated 09/06/2016 06:12 BST

Drug Mother Jailed Over Baby Death

A drug-addict mother whose baby drowned in the bath while she was out buying crack cocaine just hours after being visited by social services has been jailed for six years, a court has heard.

Finola Cash, 32, was subject to a child protection plan by Harrow Social Services and visited by social workers on multiple occasions including the day 11-month-old Ricky drowned.

The baby was submerged when his bath seat fell in to the water while his mother was outside their hotel bedsit in Edgware, north London, meeting her dealer, the Old Bailey heard.

The baby suffered severe brain damage and died a month later on September 22, after his first birthday, in a children's hospice.

Doctors found he had crack cocaine in his blood as a result of either passive smoking or contamination from a surface or finger.

He was also suffering from a severe nappy rash caused by neglect to change soiled nappies.

Cash pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was today sentenced to six years, of which Judge Charles Wide said she is expected to serve half on licence.

Tests on her blood and hair revealed she had taken crack cocaine in the 12 hours before Ricky drowned and had been a user of heroin and methadone for the previous nine months.

Judge Charles Wide said: "You will have to live with the fact that you're responsible for this little baby's death for the rest of your life. I have no doubt that will be a burden to you, but responsible for Ricky's death you are.

"You were grossly negligent. This was not the result of momentary inattention, this was the culmination of the continual failure to care for him.

"You repeatedly put your own preoccupations above the interests of your child. You were more concerned with receiving your consignment of drugs than looking after your child. That afternoon you were under the influence of drugs."

Cash began sobbing heavily as she listened to the judge, who stopped during the sentencing to repeat: "An 11-month-old baby, 11 months old."

Cash, who is from the travelling community, was known to social services because of her history of drug abuse and domestic violence and had been moved in to the hotel so social services could closely supervise the family, the prosecution said

Sarah Plaschkes QC, prosecuting, said Harrow Social Services became "increasingly concerned" about Cash who had already been evicted from two other hotels for disruptive behaviour before she arrived at the Madonna Halley Hotel in August last year.

Repeated attempts by social workers to help Cash were ignored by the mother, who refused to take part in planned drugs tests following reports from neighbours that she had been meeting with dealers.

On the morning of August 23 a social worker made an unannounced visit to Cash and noted that she had no concerns.

In the afternoon Cash, who was described as looking twice her age as a result of her addiction, left Ricky alone in the bath to meet her dealer, returning minutes later to discover him.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police said Harrow Council has launched a review of the case.

It said: "As is routine, a multi-agency serious case review is under way, commissioned by Harrow Local Safeguarding Board.

"It would be inappropriate to comment further until its publication."

A spokesman for Harrow Council said: "This was a tragic incident that resulted in the loss of a young life.

"Although a custodial sentence has been imposed by the judge today, this sentence will not bring back this young life. We will continue to work with and support the other members of the family during this difficult time.

"The welfare of children is of paramount importance to Harrow Council and our officers work tirelessly every day to ensure they are protected."

A LSCB spokesman said: "Harrow Safeguarding Children Board is undertaking a serious case review in response to the tragic death of a baby who was known to local services.

"The purpose of the review is to see if any improvements to agencies' practice can be identified and the review report will be published on the HSCB's website on completion of the review process, so that all practitioners can learn from the findings identified."

"Harrow Safeguarding Children Board is committed to ensure that local practice is strengthened by a culture of continual learning and improvement."