Drug-addict mother of tragic Belper toddler Riley Pettipierre is branded by judge as 'cunning'
A DRUG-ADDICT mother whose toddler died after drinking methadone has been branded as "cunning" by a judge as he jailed her for manslaughter.
Sally Dent wept in the dock yesterday as both she and Shaun Binfield were sentenced for the death of their two-and-a-half-year-old son, Riley Pettipierre.
The toddler drank his mother's methadone after she put it in a child's beaker for herself to take during the night.
Jailing Dent for seven-and-a-half years and Binfield for four years, Judge John Milmo said they had shown "a reckless disregard for the child's safety".
He told the couple, who had denied manslaughter but who were convicted by a jury: "You will both have his death on your consciences for the rest of your lives."
To Dent, Judge Milmo said: "Having seen you in the witness box over a protracted period, I saw no evidence of any lack of cunning to avoid responsibility for what you did or didn't do.
"It is clear you put your own convenience before Riley's safety and both of you have now paid the price."
A serious case review looking at the involvement of different agencies leading up to Riley's death on March 13 last year, to see if it could have been predicted or prevented, has not yet been completed.
During the trial, it was revealed that, although health workers knew Dent had been taking heroin and crack cocaine on top of her methadone prescription, it appears social services were not informed.
Yesterday, following sentencing, a spokeswoman for Derbyshire's Safeguarding Children's Board, which commissioned the review, said its results would be released within the next eight weeks.
She said that, following Riley's death, agencies had made changes to improve child protection.
The judge said that, to try to avoid conviction, the couple had come up with a story that the beaker had been left on top of a CD rack on the chest of drawers.
But he believed Binfield had put the cup immediately on top of the chest of drawers. He said: "It is obvious a child of two-and-a-half years would be attracted to a beaker containing liquid – particularly if he was thirsty, not having had his morning milk."
During a two-week trial, the jury heard that Dent had not drunk the methadone placed by Binfield for her to take during the night and the beaker had not been moved the following morning before Riley drank it some time before 10.30am.
Judge Milmo said that, knowing Dent had taken crack cocaine and heroin, Binfield could have put the beaker out of Riley's reach, "whatever Dent indicated".
He added: "The two of you had relaxed with a spliff of cannabis before going to bed.
"The next morning, you did not bother to check to see if there was still methadone in the beaker and then take the opportunity to put it back into a safe place."
Yesterday, Paul Mann QC, for Binfield, said that Riley had been "a daddy's boy" and that the defendant had done a lot to protect the toddler.
Simon Clarke, for Dent, said that she had been a good parent. He said she would be punished for the rest of her life for the failure of that night.
Riley was found lifeless at their home in Kilbourne Road, Belper, on March 13 last year. He was taken to hospital but declared dead a short time later.