The New Malden woman who killed her three disabled children earlier this year has been sentenced to a hospital order for treatment.

Tania Clarence, 43, smothered Olivia, four, and Ben and Max, three, at their Thetford Road home in April.

Mr Justice Sweeney said: "You did not reach a settled intention to do what you did until the fatal night.

"To the extent that there was any planning it was clearly the product of your mental illness not of any culpable conduct over and above that illness."

Solicitor Richard Egan, speaking outside the court on behalf of the family, said: "The case was one of the saddest to come before the criminal courts.

"The Clarence family, and in particular Tania Clarence, dedicated their lives to the care and welfare of their three severely disabled children.

"Her love, commitment and tenacity in the face of the overwhelming responsibilities such care entailed was extraordinary.

"Her daily struggle ultimately overwhelmed Tania's ability to cope with the enormity of the task she faced.

"Ultimately her story of dedication and love became a story of despair and utter hopelessness.

"The loss of the children's lives at the hands of the mother who cherished them is a tragedy explained by her severe depressive illness.

"But it is also a tragedy from which lessons need to be learnt.

"Tania's depression was certainly not assisted by the constant pressure placed on the family by some individuals within the medical profession and social services who could not agree with Tania and Gary Clarence's stance of prioritising quality of life for their children and were not readily willing to submit the children to operations and other interventions that they felt were not appropriate in the circumstances."

The statement said Mr Clarence would help Kingston Council in its review of the decisions taken in the case. 

It said: "He hopes to be able to ensure that never again will a family have to endure the unbearable pressure that eventually overwhelmed the resources of his wife.

"However he wishes to make it clear that all of the evidence made it plain that the three children were well cared for and loved by their parents and that allegations of 'neglect' mentioned in court last Friday are wholly unfounded.

"Tania now faces struggles and a future of coping with the past and understanding what happened and why.

"It is a future she will face with the support of her husband Gary who has stood by her throughout this tragedy.

"Tania and Gary Clarence would like to publicly acknowledge the support they have received from the public at large which has been evident in the large number of emails, texts and letters I have received on their behalf.

"They also want to thank the police and the staff at the prisons who were never less than compassionate and sensitive, and the hospital carers who have treated Tania with great sympathy and understanding."

Earlier Mr Justice Sweeney said Tania Clarence had a history of psychiatric illness in her family - her grandmother commited suicide and her mother attempted suicide after her parents' marriage ended.

He said: "You had a lonely and unhappy childhood in consequence of which you learned to suppress your unhappy feelings and not to share them with others.

"In consequence you developed a personality structure characterised by low self esteem, difficulty in forming close relationships and a feeling of being scarred emotionally by your childhood."

Surrey Comet: Post mortem examinations to take place into New Malden child deaths
Flowers left outside the Clarence family's home in April, after the children's bodies were discovered

He said Tania Clarence had also suffered an abusive relationship with a boyfriend at university in South Africa and a depressive episode that lasted for about two years.

She suffered another bout of depression in 1998 after marrying her husband the previous year.

Mr Justice Sweeney said she had to raise four young children in a small terraced house in Wandsworth, beginning a cycle of visits by medics, health workers and social workers.

By July 2011 they spent all the money they had and borrowed more to buy and adapt a home in New Malden which was finished in October 2012, he said.

He said an experienced social worker Suzie Holley was allocated at the end of 2012 "who was a great help".

But in 2013 the relationship between the family and professionals involved with the children - about 60 - reached "crisis point" as they "often descended in groups" on the house sometimes unannounced.

He said: "You felt insecure and that your personal autonomy was compromised".

Tania Clarence was accused of improperly interfering with their daughter Olivia's hospital care after she was ill on her return from a short holiday to Canada in spring 2013 "which was the subject of controversy with some of the professionals", he said.

The court had heard that she was accused of turning off an alarm.

But Mr Justice Sweeney said: "You had, in fact, done nothing wrong at all."

He also described how Tania Clarence was "exhausted and burnt out" coping with "remarkably high chronic levels of physical and emotional stress" according to a doctor in the case.

He said their social worker Suzie Holley was replaced in February 2014 by an inexperienced colleague and resigned, which the prosecutor in the case had said during the trial was "perhaps ill conceived".

The new social worker tried to raise "a number of difficult topics" when Mr Clarence was away, Mr Sweeney said, causing Tania Clarence to become overwhelmed and tearful.

He said that when asked Tania Clarence said she suffered from depression but disagreed with medication as a treatment.

Mrs Clarence has also talked about killing herself but not of harming the children, Mr Justice Sweeney said.

Surrey Comet:

The Tania Clarence case has attracted huge national media attention

Gary Clarence had been on a golf trip in America from April 8 but returned on Good Friday, April 18 and took their eldest daughter for a visit to South Africa, with long-term nanny Jade looking after the twins at her home from Good Friday to Easter Monday.

Tania Clarence's mother and her partner visited Olivia and Mrs Clarence, Mr Justice Sweeney said.

He said: "I accept, that what you wrote indicates the severity of your mental illness and that, in consequence of that mental illness, you perceived that you had no option but to commit suicide and to kill your children."

Mr Justice Sweeney said: "You did not reach a settled intention to do what you did until the fatal night. To the extent that there was any planning it was clearly the product of your mental illness not of any culpable conduct over and above that illness.

"Nor, in my view, do your views as to the medical treatment of your children, whether formed rationally or resulting from your mental illness, add to your culpability.

"Nor was this a mercy killing in the sense in which that phrase is normally used. The children did not ask to be killed, and you did not, and do not, seek to justify your actions as being justified in mercy.

"What you did was the product of your mental illness.

"I also reject the contention that your failure to obtain treatment for your depression adds to your culpability."