Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Thursday, 15 October 2009 15:28 UK

Man jailed for letting girl smoke

Graeme Conroy
Graeme Conroy persuaded another child to film the young girl

A man has been jailed for 18 months for allowing a three-year-old child to smoke.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that the girl asked Graeme Conroy, 31, for a cigarette and when she started smoking it she was filmed on a mobile phone.

The court heard that the child had smoked three cigarettes before the filming took place.

Conroy, from Ashington, Northumberland, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering or injury to health.

Last month magistrates in Gateshead had remanded Conroy, of Blyth Terrace, into custody and committed his case to the crown court after deciding their powers of sentence were insufficient.

Footage discovered

During that hearing, they heard that he handed the lit cigarette to the child and encouraged her to inhale it.

Conroy then persuaded another child, aged 14, to film it on a mobile phone for fun, the court heard.

But it was this that proved to be his undoing when the footage, which was recorded on 24 February, was discovered and he was reported to the police.

His behaviour was irresponsible and he clearly didn't give sufficient thought to what he was doing
Jane Foley, defending

In the footage Conroy can be heard laughing and at one point someone is heard saying: "She'll smoke it all herself."

The court heard that when the girl put the cigarette out in an ashtray, she asked for another.

Conroy also told onlookers that the youngster had also smoked cannabis before. However, tests carried out on the girl's hair by police proved negative for the drug, the court heard.

Prosecutor Tony Glover said: "The essence of the offence is that he encouraged this child to smoke.

'Endangered' child

"He said he knew it was wrong and knew he shouldn't have done it."

Jane Foley, defending, said: "His behaviour was irresponsible and he clearly didn't give sufficient thought to what he was doing, believing it to be a bit of a joke.

"To anyone hearing the circumstances of the offence they would be appalled to hear that a three-year-old girl was permitted to smoke this cigarette."

Sentencing Conroy, Judge David Wood said: "This sort of conduct could be very damaging to a child's health and could have all sorts of effects upon her future health. You have completely disregarded her safety and endangered her."

After the hearing Det Insp Ron Cruikshanks, of Northumbria Police, described the offence as "an appalling case of ill treatment against a child".

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