A husband and wife have been sentenced for shooting their children with a BB gun as punishment for not doing their chores satisfactorily.
The children were shot daily for four months whenever the parents believed they had stepped out of line, Preston crown court heard.
Their father kept the gun down the side of the sofa and would give it to their mother to use when he left the house.
Jailing the father for two years and handing the mother a 19-month sentence, suspended for two years, Judge Robert Altham said: “This was not the behaviour of immature parents. This was the behaviour of people who had developed a system, a regime of discipline, that involved this form of violence.
“Of course I have no doubt that running a house with [many] children in it can be and will necessarily be sometimes stressful.
“This does not appear to be the sort of offence that is the result of parents being at the end of their tether. It was conduct that was repeated and became a regime of punishment.”
One of the children was shot in the leg after refusing to change the nappy of their youngest sibling, who was not targeted. Another child was targeted after having been judged to have not done the dishes properly.
A 13-year-old was also shot for having a boyfriend, because her dad said she was too young.
One of the children, who had bruises and an open wound on their legs, told a teacher at school they were from being shot at, the court heard.
The child hid the injuries under their uniform but said they did not feel safe at home because the father had fired the BB gun at them.
Social services were called and the children were removed from the family home and interviewed.
One said: “If I didn’t do the chores in the house, Dad or my mum would either threaten me with the BB gun or shoot me with it. They’d shoot me on the legs, arms, stomach and back.”
Another said they were shot when they dropped things, telling officers: “I drop stuff nearly every day.”
The children said their father used the weapon more often but when he was not at home, their mother would use it.
Both parents denied the allegations after being arrested. The father admitted using a Nerf gun to fire foam darts at the children but claimed one of the children was responsible for the BB injuries on the others.
However, both parents later pleaded guilty to five counts of child cruelty. The court heard that the father had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse but had been drug free for six years and sober for 10 months. Ciaran Rankin, defending the mother, said it “began as a bit of fun and developed from there”.
Altham described the father as “the instigator”, noting that he had a lengthy criminal record while the mother had never been before the courts before.
“The offences represent the shooting of children with a BB gun but they also represent the climate of fear that the very threat of doing that would engender.
“Little children and older children must necessarily have found it extraordinarily stressful to be living in a house where this was a form of punishment meted out on them for fairly trivial behaviour.”