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 a chance of a long and happy life.
He made the comments during the sentencing hearing of the baby’s mother, 23-year-old Caitlin Corcoran, formally of Mount Suir, Gracedieu, Waterford city and now of 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 2nd, 2018 at Caredoc on the Cork Road, 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 said losing her liberty on June 24th has had a profound effect on Ms Corcoran, who suffered a panic attack in the aftermath. She has found the 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. Mr Hutchinson stated that a prison sentence would have a profound impact on his client.
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. CCTV footage showed that she was in the toilets for approximately 13 minutes, the court had heard. She returned to the doctor’s office and indicated that she wasn’t 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 Eugene 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 and placing the baby among blood-stained tissue in a bin lined with a plastic bin liner.
An 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 had denied doing so, but eventually she disclosed that she was pregnant, but engaged in a fiction that she was 25 weeks gone. 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 hemorrhaging 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 postmortem was carried out by Dr Michael Curtis, former deputy state pathologist, who concluded that the baby was full term and healthy, there were no obvious signs of trauma and there was evidence that she breathed after birth.
Prof Naomi McCallion, consultant neonatologist believed all that 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. She is also suffering from depression and post-traumatic symptoms following the birth.
Taking the mitigating factors and relevant personal circumstances into account, the judge 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 for a period three years on several conditions, leaving three months to serve in prison.