Mother who aborted full-term baby wins prison sentence cut

Sarah Catt

Sarah Catt

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A MARRIED woman who aborted her unborn baby in the belief the father was a man with whom she had been having an affair has had her eight-year prison sentence slashed by more than half.

Sarah Catt was branded by police as “cold and calculating” after she bought drugs over the internet to induce a miscarriage around a week before her due date.

The 36-year-old, from Sherburn-in-Elmet in North Yorkshire, then claimed the baby was stillborn and buried his body – but has not revealed its whereabouts.

However, her sentence was cut yesterday to just three-and-a-half years by the Court of Appeal in London after the initial term was deemed to be “manifestly excessive”.

Catt sobbed in the dock throughout the hearing in London, as Lady Justice Rafferty, heading a panel of three judges in the Court of Appeal, said it was an extraordinarily difficult sentencing exercise.

During the initial sentencing hearing at Leeds Crown Court in September last year, Mr Justice Cooke claimed the seriousness of the crime lay between manslaughter and murder.

He maintained Catt would have been charged with murder if the baby had been born a few days later and she had then killed him. She pleaded guilty to administering a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage.

But Lady Justice Rafferty said yesterday that Catt’s complicated obstetric history, which involved adoption, seeking termination and concealment of pregnancy, threw up a “potential for disturbance, personal misery and long lasting difficulty”.

Catt had no relevant previous convictions and a psychiatric report excluded mental disorder.

Lady Justice Rafferty referred to a letter of “remarkable restraint, dignity and loyalty” from Catt’s husband, which spoke of his hope the couple and their two young children could stay together as a family.

She said the facts of the case were “mercifully highly unusual”.

The court heard Catt had premeditatedly destroyed her child, lied about it and prevented a post-mortem examination with its potential to determine the cause and timing of death.

Her persistent refusal to reveal the location of the body, was originally said to be a consequence of legal advice, but was now put down to her not being “emotionally able” to address the issue.

Lady Justice Rafferty said: “Mrs Catt caused the death of a foetus at term. She intended to do it. She planned what she did with some care. She ensured that when she delivered the infant, it was in private. Somewhere there is a body.

“She had known by October 2009 that she was pregnant and she had ample time to seek a lawful termination. She was not without experience in that regard.”

As a consequence of medical reports, she added, the trial judge had no option but to treat Catt as a normal rational individual, who did what she did for reasons of her own, never adequately explained.

In Catt’s favour was her guilty plea, the appearance of remorse, the difficulty she had in forming an emotional attachment to an unborn child and the fact she was a good mother to her children, whose development was adversely affected by her absence.

The judge concluded that a “wise disposition” of the case should never take its eye off two young children and a “notably forbearing husband”.

Catt had previously had an abortion and another child adopted before she discovered she was pregnant again in 2009, while in the midst of a seven-year affair with a work colleague.

She finished the relationship and planned to terminate the pregnancy in early 2010, but then realised she had missed the legal limit of 24 weeks.

Leeds Crown Court heard she ordered a drug called Misoprostol on April 14, 2010, and it was delivered from Mumbai in India on May 10 that year.

She had given up a child for adoption after falling pregnant at university, only telling her parents on delivery, and had an abortion in 2000 with the agreement of the man who was to become her husband nine years later. She told her lover she was pregnant, but later said there was no baby.

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