A heroin addict convicted of fatally neglecting her seven-year-old son, who died alone in a garden from an asthma attack, has been jailed for 20 years.
Laura Heath was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter of her asthmatic son Hakeem Hussain, who was found dead in a garden in Birmingham in November 2017.
Passing sentence at Coventry crown court, Mr Justice Dove said Hakeem’s death was the result of her “catastrophic and deplorable” parenting.
The judge told 40-year-old Heath, who was ordered to serve two-thirds of her sentence before becoming eligible for parole, that the death had occurred after her life “entered a drug-fuelled downward spiral into squalor, chaos and tragedy” .
The judge said: “It is clear that in [Hakeem’s] tragically short life he had been an inspiration of happiness and affection for people who knew him.
“All of that potential for a wonderful and fulfilling life was cut short, extinguished as he collapsed on his own, suffocating, clutching a leaf in the garden.
“The truth is that Hakeem died as a result of your deplorable negligence. You had allowed your life to be completely overtaken by your addiction to heroin and cocaine. His death was needless, tragic and a result of your abject failure as his mother.”
Hakeem was staying with his mother at her friend’s house after the gas and electric had been disconnected in their own home due to nonpayment.
He went outside during the night for fresh air as he was struggling to breathe, wearing only a top and pajama bottoms in near freezing temperatures, and was found dead the next morning.
Heath had gone to bed after smoking heroin and said her son usually woke her up in the night when he was suffering from his asthma.
Images shown in court revealed Heath had modified one of her son’s inhalers with foil and an elastic band so she could use it to smoke crack cocaine.
Before the trial, Heath admitted four counts of child cruelty including failing to provide proper medical supervision and exposing Hakeem to class A drugs.
During the trial it emerged that social services in Birmingham were aware of Hakeem and at a child protection conference discussing his care, which took place two days before his fatal collapse, a school nurse said “he could die at the weekend”.
Andy Couldrick, the head of Birmingham Children’s Trust, said: “There were some clear missed opportunities, [and] some of them are distressingly familiar in terms of other cases.”
A serious case review into the contact agencies had with Hakeem and his mother before his death will be published within weeks.