Milton Keynes councillor left her four-year-old child alone for hours in house that reeked of urine while she went to work, court hears.

A Labour councillor has been spared jail for leaving her four-year-old child at home in a house reeking of urine and smeared with faeces while she went to work.

Friday, 5th February 2021, 10:58 am
Updated Monday, 8th February 2021, 11:11 am

Police went to Shammi Akter's Milton Keynes home on September 6, 2019, to find her former partner holding hands with the little boy through the letter-box while trying to reassure him, a judge was told.

He had been locked alone in the house for four hours.

Ms Akter, a 38-year-old single mother who claimed Universal Credit, unsuccessfuly tried to gag the Press from reporting anything about her crime during the court case yesterday (Thursday).

Shammi Akter

The court heard she was dependent on her income as a councillor and feared losing her position in the safe Labour seat she held if the matter came to light.

When police forced entry to Akter's home through a back door, they found they place was "like a sauna", with a heater left on high, no gate on the stairs to prevent the toddler going upstairs and a pair of scissors left out on a bedside cupboard, the court heard.

Akter, who represents the Woughton and Fishermead ward of Milton Keynes, cried and was handed a box of tissues by a dock officer at Aylesbury Crown Court as she heard lawyers explain how her former partner had called police on discovering their son left at home.

Simon Elliott, prosecuting, said: "Police attended the defendant's address following a phone call from her former partner. In that telephone call, he reported his four-year-old son had been left alone at home.

Shammi Akter

"The police arrived, the former partner was outside, the child at the front window. He said that he did not know where his mummy was. The doors and windows were locked. The former partner was unable to get to his son or talk to him. At one stage, the boy was holding his father's hand through the letterbox of the front of the property.

"Police decided they would gain access to the property. Upon entry, the police observed that it was like a sauna, a storage heater had been left on at a high temperature. They also observed there was a very strong smell of urine within the property.

"They observed that the house was untidy and there were stains on walls and carpeting and in various rooms. They observed what they considered to be an excrement smear on the carpet."

The boy told police his mother was at work, but when Akter was arrested on arrival home she claimed she had slipped out for 15 minutes to visit a sick friend and left the child in the care of his father, prosecutors said.

Shammi Akter

However, investigating officers discovered traffic camera records which showed Akter had left the area of her home at just before 4pm and returned after 8pm. Telephone records showed no evidence that the former partner, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been left in charge of the child.

The former partner, who was in a relationship with Akter from 2013 to 2015, said in a victim impact statement: "I began to suspect that my son was being left to look after himself while Ms Akter slept upstairs after her night shift. She said that he was fine to be left alone while she slept.

"When our son initially came to live with me after the incident, his behaviour was not great, he was argumentative, used bad language and was rude at times for no reason.

"He seemed older than his years, he lived the life of an adult."

The father added that his son was underdeveloped in some respects, in that he still wore nappies while aged four years and was unable to use cutlery when feeding himself.

"I really feel for my son and I do not know what else Ms Akter is capable of", he said. "I have no idea where her moral boundaries lie."

Akter had admitted one count of neglecting/assaulting/ill-treating/abandoning a child to cause unnecessary suffering or injury when she appeared before Milton Keynes magistrates on November 3 last year.

Elise Jeremiah, defending, told the court that the former partner was locked in ongoing family proceedings with Akter over their son.

The defending lawyer said: "There are two sides to this story and at no point has a judge in the Family Court seen fit to remove this child from his primary carer [his mother], who has been his primary carer since birth.

"She had previously arranged for childcare and in this case and it did not work out and she took a disastrous decision to leave her child alone. She went straight to work, she left it as long as she could before her shift started and she came straight back after her shift ended. She is not somebody who went out on the town and left her child with somebody else.

"She was, at that time, emotionally and financially in dire straits and she took the decision that she did, that she will regret for the rest of her life. This was a momentary and brief lapse in judgement."

Ms Jeremiah also urged the judge not to vary a reporting restriction, made under Section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, which would have meant the Press would have been unable to report that the child who Akter abandoned was her own son.

"This is a single parent who relies on the fees of her income from being a councillor. If she were to lose her position as a result of the press generated in this case, that would have a direct impact upon her and more generally her child", Ms Jeremiah said, "I think there should be no further reporting in this case that leads to the identification of this child."

Judge Tulk, after receiving an application from the Press, ruled that the media could reveal that the victim of Akter's crime was her own son and varied the terms of the Section 45 order to allow the link to be made.

The judge said: "I agree that in this case, because of Ms Akter's standing in the community, is important that the folks of Milton Keynes are aware of this prosecution and are aware of the fact that the child concerned, that the child who was locked in the house while she went out to work, was her own four-year-old child."

The author of a pre-sentence report, who interviewed Akter following the offence, told the court: "Although this offence took place last year, it was not apparent to me during the interview that Ms Akter has reflected on the behaviour or gained any insight.

"At times, she tried to mislead me about the events that had happened that day. Until she understands her behaviour, she is at risk of behaving in a similar way in the future."

Judge Tulk, sentencing, described the pre-sentence report as a "very damning picture" of Akter and said the charge clearly merited a jail sentence.

The judge said: "Not only did you not turn to your son's father for help on September 6, but afterwards you sought to blame him for what happened. That really is despicable conduct.

"One of the most heart-rending things I read in relation to this case is that at one point, when the police arrived, your son is locked inside the house unable to get out, his dad is in a panic outside unable to get in and he is holding your son's hand through the letterbox to try to reassure him.

"The only reason why I am not sending you straight to prison today is your son. That little boy has suffered quite enough over the last two years and I am not going to do anything today which is going to add to his suffering."

Judge Tulk sentenced Akter to eight months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and ordered her to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and wear an electronic monitoring tag between 7pm and 6am for six months.

Ms Akter was elected in 2018 as a Labour members of MK Council for Woughton and Fishermead Ward, which includes the areas of Beanhill, Netherfield, Leadenhall, Fishermead, Peartree Bridge, Springfield, Eaglestone and Tinkers Bridge.

After she was charged last year, she was suspended from the MK Labour party but still acted as a serving councillor.

Today she has been expelled from the Labour group and forced to resign as a councillor.

Pete Marland, Labour leader of Milton Keynes Council, told the Citizen: "Shammi Akter is no longer a member of the Labour Group. It would be right, given the serious nature of the matter, that she resigns her position on MK Council".

An MK Council spokesman said: "The council has received and acknowledged a notice of resignation. This takes effect immediately. The council will be publishing a notice of vacancy shortly."

All councillors in MK receive a basic allowance of about £10,500 a year plus expenses. Ms Akter was a member of the Budget and Resources Scrutiny Committee and Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Sub-Committee. She previously sat on the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee.

She was also founder and president of the Milton Keynes All Women's Welfare Association