A prosecutor has branded the actions of a man who vandalised a baby’s grave on six occasions as 'one of the most despicable offences' he had seen in his 30 year career.

Describing Mark Plaister as 'beyond wicked', Carl Gaffney told Burnley Magistrates Court that the defendant had subjected his victims to 'mental torture' and had still to this day failed to provide an explanation as to why he committed the crimes.

Plaister, 35, pleaded guilty to six counts of criminal damage after destroying the grave of Maggie Bernasconi-Parsons, who was still-born in 2015, between May and June 2020.

At his deferred sentencing on Monday, the court was told that Plaister, of Malvern Avenue, Padiham, first targeted Maggie’s grave on May 21 last year.

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen: Helen Brown 15.07.15..Sarah Bernasconi (34) and her partner, Mark Parsons (36), of Mitton Close, Blackburn. are raising money for a cuddle cot/ cold cot for Blackburn Paediatrics Unit and for memory boxes as they lost their daughter, Maggie Pearl, whoHelen Brown 15.07.15..Sarah Bernasconi (34) and her partner, Mark Parsons (36), of Mitton Close, Blackburn. are raising money for a cuddle cot/ cold cot for Blackburn Paediatrics Unit and for memory boxes as they lost their daughter, Maggie Pearl, who

The child's grave was then vandalised again on June 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, with ornaments being trashed and scattered in nearby woods.

The incidents were reported to the police and a hidden wildlife camera was put up by the cemetery, which eventually caught Plaister in the act on June 19 - capturing him approaching the grave and kicking the ornaments across the ground.

The victim, Sarah Bernasconi-Parsons, knew of Plaister as someone who attended the graveyard regularly, as he had also lost a child around the same time as Mrs Bernasconi-Parsons.

Mr Gaffney read a 13 page victim impact statement to the court, which detailed the heartache Mrs Bernasconi-Parsons, her husband Mark, and her family had endured throughout the whole ordeal.

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen: Helen Brown 15.07.15..Sarah Bernasconi (34) and her partner, Mark Parsons (36), of Mitton Close, Blackburn. are raising money for a cuddle cot/ cold cot for Blackburn Paediatrics Unit and for memory boxes as they lost their daughter, Maggie Pearl, whoHelen Brown 15.07.15..Sarah Bernasconi (34) and her partner, Mark Parsons (36), of Mitton Close, Blackburn. are raising money for a cuddle cot/ cold cot for Blackburn Paediatrics Unit and for memory boxes as they lost their daughter, Maggie Pearl, who

Baby grave vandal devastated couple by wrecking site six times

He said: "When Plaister was caught, Sarah and Mark asked him 'why us, why Maggie? How many times have you done this to her grave?', to which he responded 'just six times'.

"And when they asked him why he had committed the offences, he replied, 'I don't know'."

As part of her statement, Mrs Bernasconi-Parsons said that as a parent her job was to protect her child, but she felt she had been unable to do that, which left her and her husband feeling helpless.

To add to the family's torment, Plaister had tried to befriend Mrs Bernasconi-Parsons and had also been the one to inform her and her husband that Maggie's grave had been vandalised, in what Mr Gaffney described as 'beyond wicked'

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen: Helen Brown 15.07.15..Sarah Bernasconi (34) and her partner, Mark Parsons (36), of Mitton Close, Blackburn. are raising money for a cuddle cot/ cold cot for Blackburn Paediatrics Unit and for memory boxes as they lost their daughter, Maggie Pearl, whoHelen Brown 15.07.15..Sarah Bernasconi (34) and her partner, Mark Parsons (36), of Mitton Close, Blackburn. are raising money for a cuddle cot/ cold cot for Blackburn Paediatrics Unit and for memory boxes as they lost their daughter, Maggie Pearl, who

Mr Gaffney added: "This is one of the most despicable offences that I have ever seen and I have been practicing for more than 30 years, and in that time I have prosecuted murder cases that have had less of an emotional impact.

"To do what he did and then to do it again, and again and again, and then to mentally torture these people by trying to befriend them is beyond wicked.

"This is as serious a criminal damage offence as I have ever seen, and I do not apologise for saying these things.

"Sarah and her family doubled down on their grief, and channelled it into something good, to support people like herself, like him.

"She has even said that he must be going through his own grief, but that does not excuse what he has done."

Anger as thieves steal from baby daughter's grave at Pleasington Crematorium

After her daughter's death, Mrs Bernasconi-Parsons set up fundraising groups for bereaved families, and has tirelessly raised money to try and help parents who suffer the pain of a stillbirth or infant death.

Plaister's defence solicitor, Jonathon Taylor, said there were clearly some underlying mental health issues but his client fully accepted his wrong doing despite not being able to explain his actions.

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen: Mark PlaisterMark Plaister

In sentencing, District Judge Hogarth said: "This is an exceptional case, and I note that you have suffered two traumatic incidents yourself and have two children, one who has complex needs.

"I cannot impose a punishment that will be commensurate with the affect this has had on your victim.

"You say you don't know why you've committed these offences so it is not alright for us to move forward without allowing you to examine your behaviour and why you did it, and that is why I impose the sentence I am imposing."

Plaister, who has four convictions for 21 previous offences of a similar nature, was given a six month prison sentence suspended for 12 months.

He was ordered to carry out 25 days rehabilitation work, was placed on an electronic curfew for eight weeks, was made subject to a restraining order preventing him from going near the grave of Maggie Bernasconi-Parsons until further notice, and was ordered to pay £350 in compensation, which Mrs Bernasconi-Parsons said she would donate to charity.

Speaking after the sentencing, Mrs Bernasconi-Parsons said: “I am really happy with the sentence the judge gave.

"I feel like this has provided some kind of closure, knowing he can't go near Maggie's grave again.

"We haven't got an answer as to why but I feel justice has finally been served."