August 2020

Woman dodges jail for ill-treating kids found in house swarming with flies and covered in filth

A woman who kept two children in a rubbish-strewn “house of flies” has dodged jail.

Sharmaine McAughey’s home in Stenhousemuir, Stirlingshire, was found to be “swarming” with the insects, Falkirk Sheriff Court was told.

Prosecutor Catherine Fraser said police had called in relation to a separate matter and spotted that the blinds and curtains were drawn and the windows appeared to be blackened with dirt.

They had received information that there were two children, aged seven and five, living at the  address.

Ms Fraser said: “As a result of what they had seen, the police officers made arrangements to attend the following morning and view the conditions within.

“They attended at 8.30 am and the accused opened the front door slightly and immediately came outside and closed the door behind her.

“It was apparent she didn’t want the officers to see what was inside.

“She confirmed there were children there but initially refused the officers permission to enter, becoming quite agitated, asking that they attend at a later time.”

McAughey, 29, was informed the police would “have to effect entry”, and she eventually allowed then in.

Ms Fraser said: “When the police officers went in they were immediately met by a smell – a pungent odour – and they were swarmed by flies.

“The house was saturated in every room with swarms of flies.

“The hall area was littered with rubbish, wall paper was hanging off the wall in the living room, there was a half-loaf of bread discarded on the sofa.

“There were flies on all the surfaces, and they were swarming around the officers’ heads.

“The kitchen floor was covered with black bags of rubbish including food items, which had obviously been there for some time.

“The kitchen surfaces were littered with dirty dishes and dirty clothing.

“There were empty food containers covered with fruit flies, which again were swarming around the room.

“Mould was discovered in the fridge, the stairs were covered in rubbish, the toilet hadn’t been cleaned for some considerable time, and the shower cubicle was filled with black bags of rubbish, plates and various other items.

“There was a film of dirt on the shower which meant it hadn’t been used for some considerable amount of time.

“There were piles of rubbish and dirty clothing on the floor.”

Bedrooms in the property were poorly furnished, with dried faeces on one of the quilt covers and on the walls, and empty alcohol bottles and cigarette packets lying around.

Wiring at a plug socket was exposed and a small fabric dog toy was covered in fruit flies.

Ms Fraser said: “Both children would have had flies crawling over them constantly – the officers were only in the property for a short period of time and every movement they made would agitate the flies within.”

Ms Fraser said it was “unclear” where the children would have washed, but one of the children was seen leaving for school “clean and tidy and not in keeping with the condition of the locus”.

McAughey said she made sure the children attended school clean and tidy, and said she was aware of how bad the conditions were in the house, but didn’t want to draw the school’s attention to that.

Social workers were contacted and McAughey was told she was under arrest.

She told officers the house had been left to her in a will, and she had lived there for four years.

A duty social worker said that conditions in the house were among the worst she had ever encountered.

The court heard that after the police visit, the children who had been living in the house went to stay with their father under a voluntary arrangement, and had also changed schools.

Mother-of-two McAughey, 29, pleaded guilty by letter to ill-treating the children – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – by exposing the children to unsanitary and unsafe living conditions at her home.

Sheriff Derek Livingston placed McAughey on a community payback order, placing her under social work supervision for two years, as a direct alternative to imprisonment.