By Sophie Wheeler
AN abusive mother from Denton, who ill-treated her two children and left them home alone, has been spared jail after a female judge accepted her pleas she was left at “breaking point’’ by a violent ex-boyfriend.
Former businesswoman Shelly Burton, 39, was arrested after the boys aged eight and 11 were abandoned and left to fend for themselves when she stormed off telling a relative “I’ve had enough of the kids”.
Burton, of George Street, who ran her own flooring company before working at a supermarket, also threw a temper tantrum at one of the youngsters and hit him over the head with the metal rim of her purse.
Police discovered she had also previously left the children to make their own meals, would drive home drunk and deliberately smash plates in the kitchen. The youngsters are currently living with their respective fathers.
At Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court, Burton, admitted child neglect but was sentenced to 12 months in jail suspended for 18 months after telling how she had been the victim of a six hour assault at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, who is not the father of the children.
She said she suffered a dislocated jaw plus other injuries in the attack and claimed she was mistakenly detained by police after she had to stab her attacker in self defence. She also claimed she was sexually assaulted. It was not disclosed whether the ex-boyfriend was prosecuted over the attack.
Sentencing, Judge Sophie McKone said: “In 2017, you were undoubtedly significantly assaulted by your then partner who was not the father of the children.
“It’s clear that you were badly assaulted by him and it seems that since then your life has spiralled downwards.
“Your mental health has been significantly affected by what happened and you also were the victim of a significant sexual assault.
“The effect of that on you has had an effect on your behaviour towards your children. While it doesn’t excuse what you have done to your children, it perhaps explains why.
“Up until then there were no difficulties but then you treated your children so badly as you did. You have paid a high price because your children do not see you anymore.
“You clearly now still have some mental health issues which you are receiving medication for.
“I accept the remorse you have expressed as genuine.
“In my view these offences have to be marked by a custodial sentence, but you have undoubtedly been a victim of significant crime yourself and the fact you have some significant mental health problems allows me to suspend that sentence.”
The court heard the investigation began in April last year after the youngsters arrived home from primary school to find themselves locked out of their home.
John Kennerley, prosecuting, said: “Initially it was raining and they took refuge in a neighbour’s property but then the elder boy telephoned his grandfather.
“He was very upset and explained that his mother wasn’t there, and the grandfather then telephoned the boy’s father.
“In the meantime, the grandfather received a telephone call from the defendant, who had come back.
“She said she was at the house and she said had ‘had enough of the kids’ and she was off.
“The boy’s father drove to the address to find the defendant had left the premises and both youngsters were on their own. They were terrified and crying.
“She was later arrested and the boys were interviewed. The older boy told his mother was breaking pans in the kitchen and hitting him with the metal part of the purse on the head and he hit his head on the wall.
“She said she never wanted to see him again and that she will kill him. She then left and he contacted his grandfather.
“He then went on to discuss how he made been left on numerous occasions to look after the other boy and was responsible for making meals.
“He said that his mother had struck him about 12 times over the last three months and said the longest they had been left on their own was the afternoon until 9.30pm. His mother would sometimes come in drunk and drive the car while drunk.
“The school had concerns about them ‘not being with it’ and on one occasion were both absent from school and as they had been playing out late the night before.
“There was a reference from one of the boys that his mother and her boyfriend where up to something but she said if he said anything she would ‘batter him’.
“When interviewed the defendant said she had been suffering from anxiety and depression and had been subject to domestic violence.
“She said she was working in a café, the boy had lost his key she drove back to the house and on the way back to the house she had an accident.
“Back at the house she pointed at the boy who backed away and banged his head.
“She called her own father saying she needed some space and left the boys on their own again.’’
Mark Fireman, defending, said: “Prior to 2017 Shelly Burton was in a relationship with another man, not the father of the children and the relationship was on and off for about four years.
“In that time she was a victim of domestic violence on occasions during that relationship which culminated in Christmas of 2017, in her subjected to a prolonged and sustained assault which was said to have taken about six hours.
“Her jaw was dislocated and she suffered other injuries. She actually stabbed her attacker to defend herself and as a result she spent a few days in police custody while the decision was made whether charges would be forthcoming. The relationship then ended.
“She was in work at the time at a supermarket but as a result of her injuries she couldn’t return to work and lost her job and this had quite a significant financial impact on her.
“She was not able to work and was paying a mortgage at the time and was at breaking point.
“Prior to the assault in 2017, there’s no suggestion that she had mistreated her children in any way.
“On the day she came to the authorities’ attention she had been working at a friend’s cafe in Reddish.
“Her eldest child had lost his key and she had to come from work and was involved in a minor road traffic collision.
“She was under significant pressure and since April last year she has not seen either of her children. She has been prescribed medication for depression and anxiety.
“She’s had significant problems with her mental health and was somebody who herself was vulnerable by reason of the abuse that she had suffered.
“In addition to the domestic violence there were claims of sexual assault and she has significantly suffered from trauma which may partially explain why she behaved in the way that she did.
“This was prompted by abuse, financial and mental health problems.’’
Burton was also ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.