A TEENAGE mum left a toddler covered in bruises when she was unable to cope with parenthood, a court heard yesterday (Monday, January 20).

Staff at a nursery in Darlington raised the alarm when the 15-month-old girl arrived with "red and angry" marks on her head.

The youngster's mother originally claimed she had banged her own head on the side of her cot, Teesside Crown Court heard.

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But an expert said some of the injuries - those on the sides of her head and temple - could not have been caused in such a way.

The 19-year-old mother, from Darlington, later admitted charges of child cruelty and neglect when she appeared in court.

Yesterday, she was given a suspended prison sentence by a judge who told her what she did was wicked, but she needed help.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, heard that the mother - who had the baby at 16 - suffered from post-natal depression.

Psychiatric reports also revealed that the teenager was abused as a child and desperately sought solace in a series of relationships.

Her barrister Carl Swift told the court: "Since her daughter was taken into care, help has begun to trickle into place.

"There has been some improvement in her ability to recognise what was going on, what is going on and what has to happen."

Prosecutor Paul Newcombe said nursery staff saw one bruise on the girl's head one day - but a further 14 marks the next day.

Sparing her prison, Judge Bourne-Arton told her mother: "People at large should know why I'm taking the step that I am.

"You have had, on any view, a difficult and troubled upbringing. You sought refuge with a number of men, boys essentially.

"The child was not planned - far from it . . . but to your credit, you were determined, eventually, to keep your baby.

"Thereafter, you had very many difficulties, and the doctor has recognised that you were suffering from post-natal depression.

"That resulted in you singularly being unable to cope.

"But that having been said, what you did was wicked because you assaulted your young daughter and you must have recognised you were unable to cope."

The mother was given a 36-week prison sentence, suspended for two years, with supervision which will include psychiatric treatment.