A mother has been sentenced to three months in prison for the manslaughter of her newborn baby.
Waterford Circuit Court Judge Eugene O’Kelly said the baby, found dead in a Caredoc bin, was neglected and left to die by the one and only person who knew of her birth, her mother.
Judge O’Kelly said baby Sophie, who was born healthy, was denied the chance of a long and happy life.
He made the comments during the sentencing hearing of the baby’s mother, Caitlin Corcoran (23), formerly of Mount Suir, Gracedieu, Waterford city, and now with an address at Castleblaney, Mullinavat, Co Kilkenny.
Following a two-week trial last October, Ms Corcoran was found unanimously guilty of manslaughter of Sophie Elizabeth Corcoran on April 22nd, 2018 at Caredoc on the Cork Road in Waterford City. A majority verdict of guilty was returned for the child neglect charge on the same date.
Addressing the court on behalf of his client, Paul W Hutchinson BL stated that losing her liberty on June 24th has had a profound effect on Ms Corcoran, who suffered a panic attack in the aftermath.
She had found the past two weeks in prison demoralising and lonely as she has been treated as a vulnerable person and isolated 24/7 in her cell from the general prison population. She is limited to six-minute phone calls and is entitled to two visits per calendar month.
Mr Hutchinson said a prison sentence would have a profound impact on his client.
However, Judge Eugene O’Kelly could not comment on prison policy and said she had to be sentenced appropriately.
On April 22nd, 2018, Ms Corcoran arrived with her mother and grandmother at the Caredoc facility at around 2.17am complaining of constipation and back pain.
Ms Corcoran was asked to provide a urine sample and left to go to the toilets. CCTV footage showed that she was in the toilets for approximately 13 minutes. She returned to the doctor’s office and indicated that she was not in a position to provide a sample.
Dr Adel Abdulrazak referred her to University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and informed them that a blood test would be taken for further investigations.
In sentencing, Judge O’Kelly said the court was principally concerned with what happened in the toilet.
Ms Corcoran delivered a full-term baby girl, which by her account fell into the toilet. She retrieved the baby and held it for some time and before leaving placed the baby among blood-stained tissue in a bin lined with a plastic bin liner.
The alarm was raised when Ms Corcoran presented at UHW, when it became apparent that to the medical staff treating her that she had delivered a baby. Initially she denied doing so, but eventually she disclosed that she was pregnant, but engaged in a fiction that she was 25 weeks gone.
Likely to have given birth
When an ultrasound found no presence of a baby, Ms Corcoran responded that she must have had a miscarriage.
However, an examination by doctors concluded that it was likely she had given birth. Ms Corcoran denied this and gave an account of being in the toilet and feeling a huge amount of pressure, before experiencing a haemorrhaging of blood.
At this stage doctors had child protection concerns and contacted the authorities. Gardaí went to the Caredoc toilets and later found the body of the baby girl in one of the bins.
A post-mortem was carried out by Dr Michael Curtis, the former Deputy State Pathologist, who concluded that the baby was full term and healthy. There were no obvious signs of trauma. There was evidence that she breathed after birth.
Professor of neonatology and consultant neonatology Naomi McCallion believed all would be required would be stimulation, feeding to prevent hypoglycaemia and keeping the baby warm.
After the discovery was made, Ms Corcoran continued to deny that the baby could be hers but gave DNA samples. She later admitted to gardaí the baby was hers.
Judge Kelly noted that it was not an offence to conceal a pregnancy, and said the deception was not seen as an aggravating factor. He said the appropriate sentence for each count was one of four years.
The court heard that Ms Corcoran was bullied as a youth and coped by ignoring negative aspects of her life. From psychiatric reports it was noted that she went into subconscious denial about her pregnancy as she did in her childhood. She is also suffering from depression and post-traumatic symptoms following the birth.
Taking the mitigating factors and relevant personal circumstances into account, Judge O’Kelly reduced the sentence by nine months.
He said the question must be asked if society benefited from a person like Ms Corcoran, who has no previous convictions, serving that length of a sentence. For a multitude of reasons, he was satisfied that a nominal prison sentence would suffice.
He suspended the final three years of the sentence imposed for a period three years on several conditions, leaving three months to serve.