THE parents of a boy with autism who was mistreated by a carer at an East Lancashire residential unit have said they are appalled the woman has been spared jail.

Laura Hartley, 25, was convicted of child cruelty after Preston Crown Court heard she dragged the teenager down a corridor by his ankles to a bathroom.


The youngster was left with a mark to his back and a shocked co-worker told the court Hartley had told her: “You’ve just got to do whatever to get them in there.”

The carer was handed a nine month prison sentence suspended for two years after Judge Mark Brown heard she is expecting a baby and has complications with her pregnancy.

Speaking after the sentence, the boy’s dad, who can not be identified for legal reasons, said: “It’s disgusting. She should have gone to jail.”

The youngster’s tearful mum said: “It was the worst decision we have ever had to make, putting our son into residential care. We looked around three different places and chose this one because it was close to home and we would be able to visit him.

“He wasn’t coping at home - he couldn’t leave the house because it was too much for him to cope with.”

The boy’s dad added: “It was sold to us by management. We thought he would be safe and happy there. It seemed like a really good place, a place he would thrive.”

But on April 8 - just a month after the boy moved into the unit, he became upset after a visit from his parents.

His dad said: “We had taken him a DVD and he wanted to watch it. We wanted it written into his care plan that he was able to watch DVDs we took in for him. He was happy when we left but when he wasn’t allowed to watch the DVD he got upset.”

Hartley, who was in charge of bathing the boy that evening, began leading him to the bathroom with another colleague, but when the lad dropped to the floor she took him by his ankles and dragged him.

Her colleague was so shocked at what she had seen she spoke to a colleague and gave a written statement to her manager the following day.

The boy’s parents were told about the incident and the matter was reported to the police and social services.

Hartley denied cruelty but was convicted following a trial.

The boy’s dad said: “We haven’t had an apology from her. If she had said, ‘OK, I lost my temper’, we would understand but she has denied it all along.”

His mum added: “All I have wanted to do is bring him home again but it would be too disruptive and he wouldn’t be able to cope. He is settled there.”

Judge Brown told Hartley he was only prepared to suspend her prison sentence after hearing about difficulties with her pregnancy.

However he placed her on a three month curfew to remain indoors at her home in Amberwood Drive, Blackburn, and ordered her to take part in a rehabilitation activity requirement.