A WOMAN convicted of long term abuse on a girl has kept her freedom as an act of mercy.

Judge Gary Burrell QC told Christine Morgan, 61, that if she had been in better health and younger, he would have sent her straight to prison.

Morgan, of The Tyleshades, Romsey, had been been found guilty of two counts of wilful ill-treatment by jurors who had heard how the victim was just four-years-old when it started and which involved threats to kill her, striking her in the face and grabbing her by the throat.

The youngster told Southampton Crown Court how Morgan had once forced her mouth open and stuffed it with cloth with cleaning fluid on it, and had also had held her head under water. She said she suffered nightmares and had been left mentally scarred by Morgan haunting her.

Morgan received a 12 months suspended sentence with 200 hours unpaid work and told to pay £1,500 costs.

David Reid, defending, described Morgan as a somewhat isolated, rather reclusive figure and who would be vulnerable in prison. Some of the treated meted out came from her inability to cope and medical problems, adding that she continued to deny the offences.

Passing sentence, the judge told Morgan she had been in a position of trust and the abuse had lasted a significant period of time. “You bullied her.”

But he accepted she would be vulnerable in prison. He said he was suspending the sentence as an act of mercy because of her illness and isolation adding “You will have to live with what you have done.”