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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 May 2007, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Mother jailed for baby drug death
Gemma Fennelly
Gemma Fennelly was jailed for two years over the death
A drug addict whose baby son died from an overdose of the heroin substitute methadone has been jailed.

Mitchell Bate, aged 22 months, was found dead at home in Rodney Street, Hartlepool, Teesside in September 2005.

Gemma Fennelly, 25, of Edinburgh Grove, was given a two-year sentence at Teesside Crown Court on Thursday.

Last month, she admitted manslaughter by gross negligence for allowing or failing to prevent her son from swallowing a lethal dose of the drug.

She pleaded guilty after the trial was halted in October to allow further forensic tests to be carried out.

This toddler needed the care, guidance and protection of loving parents. That did not happen
Det Ch Insp Gordon Lang, Northumbria Police

The baby's father, Mark Bate, 34, was cleared of manslaughter when no evidence was offered against him.

The prosecution said the case was tragic, but no "wickedness" was alleged on the part of the baby's mother.

Fennelly had originally been accused of giving her son the prescription drug to keep him quiet.

But the court was told that Mitchell's parents kept their prescribed medication in a locked metal box on a kitchen shelf he would barely have been able to reach.

Drug culture

Defence barrister Neil Davey, mitigating at Thursday's hearing, said the boy had been exposed to the drug because of the chaotic home life of his heroin addict parents.

Det Ch Insp Gordon Lang, speaking after sentencing, said Mitchell had become a victim of the drug culture.

"He should have been cherished, loved and looked after but the amount of methadone that he had consumed would have caused serious problems to an adult user."

"Mitchell did not know what he was taking. This toddler needed the care, guidance and protection of loving parents.

"That did not happen."

Woman gets two years for son's death


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