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Last Updated: Friday, 20 April 2007, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Toddler fight family spared jail
Carole Olver
Carole Olver told police she was "toughening up" the children
A mother who goaded her two toddlers to fight each other on video camera has received a 12-month suspended sentence, along with her mother and two sisters.

Zara Olver, 21, her 48-year-old mother Carole, and sisters Serenza Olver, 29, and Danielle Olver, 19, all admitted child cruelty at Plymouth Crown Court.

In the footage, a boy in a nappy was called a "wimp" for not hitting his sister back after she struck him.

The women laughed as the children hit each other with brushes and magazines.

But the footage was found by chance by the toddlers' father, on leave from the army, and he told social services.

Anyone watching this footage... would have been sickened and saddened
Det Sgt Barry Walters

The boy, aged two, is seen crying after being punched in the face by his three-year-old sister and is told by one of the four women in the room "not to be a wimp or a faggot" and to hit the girl back.

The court heard that, when interviewed by police, Carole Olver said: "I didn't see any harm in toughening them up - I done the same with my own children."

Zara Olver pleaded guilty to causing or procuring the children to be ill treated in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury.

Abuse women
The women were told they posed no risk to society
Her mother and sisters pleaded guilty to jointly inciting the ill treatment of children.

Judge Francis Gilbert gave all four women, from North Prospect in Plymouth, a one-year suspended sentence, saying they posed no risk to the public.

He also ordered the four to do 100 hours of unpaid work and banned them from working with children.

The children, who cannot be named for legal reasons, are in the care of the parents of their father.

'Dog fight'

The case came to court after the father returned from a posting in Iraq and found the images on a video camera.

He reported the matter to social services in Plymouth who alerted the police's child protection unit.

If there was an offence that deserved even 12 months in prison this was it
Michelle Elliott, Kidscape

Prosecutor David Gittins told the court that the father described the footage to police as being "like a dog fight".

"He was reduced to tears," Mr Gittins said.

"What he saw was not two children playing, but an eight-minute film of them being forced to fight."

Speaking after the case, investigating officer Det Sgt Barry Walters said: "Anyone watching this footage showing grown adults encouraging very young children committing unnatural acts would have been sickened and saddened.

"We have been in touch with child protection teams across the country and to my knowledge this is the first time that something like this has ever gone to court."

Michelle Elliott, director of children's charity Kidscape, said: "Quite frankly if there was an offence that deserved even 12 months in prison this was it.

"What they've done is send a message that this isn't a very serious thing and they've walked free. I think most people are outraged by that."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The women leaving court


Prosecutor David Gittins speaks outside the court



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