A Bolton couple were brought to court after keeping a child in a “filthy and appalling house” strewn with the remains of a dead dog.

In what a judge called one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen, the court heard how the house had been full of dead flies, smeared with excrement and piled with rubbish.

The girl herself had shared a bedroom with a dead, decomposing rabbit, which the couple failed to remove.

Judge Nicholas Clarke KC said: “In all my career in the criminal justice system, and I have seen many examples in reports, on the news and in the courts, I have never seen a case of such extreme neglect.

“This house was filthy and appalling.”

The court had previously heard from prosecutor Eleanor Gleeson how RSPCA inspectors had visited the house in summer last year and called police to help them get inside after noticing flies and a powerful smell.

Judge Clarke said: “The smell was described as smelling like a decomposed body, that is not unduly surprising given a body of a dog was found decomposed on the sofa.

“The dog is described as part decomposed.”

He added: “The remains of the dog that was decomposed were found strewn all over the house.”

As well as the dead rabbit, the child’s bedroom was found to be full of rubbish but the girl herself, who has since been taken into foster care, was not seriously harmed.

Judge Clarke said: “It is described by the prosecution as a miracle that she has not come to great harm.”

Various other animals were found in the house, none of which had been cared for and which have been taken into care by the RSPCA.

The family themselves appeared to live solely on takeaway food, while the ceiling in the kitchen had collapsed two years ago without ever having been repaired.

The couple, a man and a woman both in their 40s, who cannot be named for legal reasons, both pleaded guilty to child neglect.

Defence previously set out by Neil Ronan argued that they were entitled to credit for having pleaded guilty and that neither had any previous convictions.

The court heard how both are in work and are not in a relationship with each other anymore, having worked to improve their situation since then, having expressed remorse for their actions.

Judge Clarke said it had been an “agonising case”, where deciding whether or not to send the couple to prison was concerned.

But he decided that in part due to “gross overcrowding” in jails across the country they could serve their sentences in the community.

Each was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to complete 300 hours of unpaid work with 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

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They will also have to pay costs to the crown prosecution service and the RSPCA.

Judge Clarke also banned them from owning any animals at all for an unlimited length of time and ruled that it will be ten years until they are able to apply to magistrates to lift this ban.

Addressing the defendants, he said: “I don’t think you are fit to look after a goldfish.

“You wouldn’t feed it, you wouldn’t change its tank.”