A former Birkenhead couple who ill-treated a young girl were both jailed for three years.

A judge told David Bird and Corrina Smith that the child, who was aged seven and eight at the time, is likely to suffer psychologically in future.

"This sort of behaviour will not be tolerated," Judge Robert Warnock, told the the couple.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had been left locked in a tiny, uncarpeted room for hours, sometimes in the dark, sometimes naked and with the window covered with thick material.

The judge described it as a "small cell" and said she was sometimes left in there all alone in the empty house.

Her ordeal came to end after concerns were raised by staff at her school after she was found stealing food from other children's lunch boxes.

28-year-old Bird and Smith, 26, both pleaded guilty to two charges involving neglect and ill treatment and Smith also admitted assault.

Janet Reaney, prosecuting, said that after the school raised the alarm the social services were brought in and later the police.

The little girl told how she was afraid of Bird and that he ill-treated her and got Smith to do the same.

"She said he had taken away her childhood," said Ms Reaney.

He had also ordered her to clean a floor with a toothbrush and was angry when she did it too slowly.

He slapped her and on another occasion Smith hit her and her head banged against the wall causing a bruise.

When interviewed, the couple denied the allegations.

Paul Wood, defending, said Smith is immature and low intellect.

Her judgement may have been affected by her cannabis use and she is now remorseful for her behaviour .

Defence barrister Zillah Williams said Bird thought he was acting appropriately.

His life had gone downhill some time before after his young brother died from an asthma attack and he turned to alcohol.

Speaking after sentencing,  Detective Constable Jim Savage from Merseyside Police’s Child Protection Unit said: “I hope this case sends out a strong message to victims of child cruelty, whether it is recent or historic, that if you can find the courage needed to come forward, the authorities in Merseyside will be there for you and ready to take action against the perpetrators.”