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Crown Not Seeking Jail After Babysnatch Admitted

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Christchurch, May 6 NZPA - The Crown is not seeking a jail term for a 21-year-old woman who admits trying to snatch a newborn baby from St George's Hospital.

She pleaded guilty today at a Christchurch District Court session that was meant to settle details for her upcoming trial.

Instead, she is on bail for sentencing on June 26 and Judge Michael Crosbie has asked for a probation report and an assessment of her suitability for home detention.

The woman spent up to two months in Hillmorton Hospital after the December 3 incident, for the preparation of a psychiatric report under the Criminal Procedures (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act.

Defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger told the court that the report showed she was fit to stand trial.

But psychiatric factors are likely to be relevant at the sentencing, according a crown memorandum.

No summary of facts about the incident was read in court about the incident at the St George's maternity ward.

It was reported at the time that a woman had entered two rooms at the hospital, saying she was a hospital employee. A father said she asked to take one baby for blood tests but the father replied that those had already been done. He reported the incident to hospital staff.

The woman, who was unemployed and lived in Redwood at the time, admitted unlawfully taking a two-day-old baby boy with intent to deprive the mother of possession of the child.

Miss Bulger said the woman was no longer at Hillmorton Hospital but was at home with her parents on strict bail conditions. There had been no difficulty in keeping to those conditions.

Judge Crosbie said the Crown had filed a memorandum that the case had a high public interest component but acknowledging that there were "substantial mitigating factors relating to her personal circumstances and background".

"The court is aware of some of that background and that the accused has been receiving some assistance. I am told by the Crown that this is a matter where the Crown will not be seeking a sentence of imprisonment," he said.

"While this is ultimately a matter for the court, after consideration of reports by probation and the psychiatric report, it provides an appropriate basis for remanding the accused on bail."

He considered whether to lift the interim suppression of name order that has been in place since the woman's first court appearance on December 4.

Miss Bulger asked for the order to stay in place until it could be fully argued in court at the sentencing.

Crown prosecutor Pip Currie said the Crown supported the application for continued suppression, until all the relevant reports were before the court.

Judge Crosbie granted the order but said the court would need to be convinced "by appropriate and proper material" for the order to be made permanent at the sentencing.

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