A woman convicted in England for aborting her unborn baby at nearly full term, and sentenced to eight years in prison, has seen her sentence reduced.
Sarah Catt, of Sherburn-in-Elmet, North Yorkshire, took a drug when she was 39 weeks into the pregnancy. She falsely claimed to authorities the baby boy was stillborn and that she buried his body. However, officials never found any evidence of his body after an exhaustive search.
Catt was eventually charged and pleaded guilty to administering poison to procure the miscarriage after using a drug she purchased online to abort her baby. The UK resident, who has two children ages 8 and 10, returned to Leeds Crown Court for sentencing. Section 58 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act carries a maximum life prison sentence.
At the time of her conviction, the sentencing judge, Mr Justice Cooke, said that Sarah Catt “had robbed the baby of the life it was about to have and said the seriousness of the crime lay between manslaughter and murder.” Catt made a “deliberate and calculated decision” to end her pregnancy, he said.
Now, during a hearing at London’s Court of Appeal, Catt sobbed and won the right to have her sentence reduced. From the London Daily Mail:
Lady Justice Rafferty, heading a panel of three judges, said it was a difficult sentencing exercise but the jail term was manifestly excessive.
She said 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, who was described at her trial as ‘cold and calculating’, 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 that the couple and their two young children could stay together as a family.
She said the facts of the case were ‘mercifully, highly unusual’.
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“Catt, who already had two children with her husband, had a scan at 30 weeks confirming her pregnancy at a hospital in Leeds, the court heard,” the BBC indicated before the conviction. “Suspicions were raised when she failed to register the birth weeks later. Catt had been having an affair with a work colleague for seven years, the judge was told.”
“The court heard her husband was unaware of the pregnancy and was not consulted about her decision to have an abortion,” it added. “She maintained she had a legitimate abortion at a clinic in Manchester.”
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children previously challenged the department of health following the verdict.
Commenting on the case, Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, said: “Abortion at any stage of pregnancy remains a serious crime, as the courts have recognized in this case. Mrs Catt’s mental state before the delivery of her child is unfathomable, and her state now is a cause for deep concern.”
“The penalty imposed should send a salutory message to the department of health and the Sexual Health Team in particular, which works to promote abortion. Abortion remains illegal at any stage of pregnancy unless the requirements of the Abortion Act 1967 are fulfilled. The grounds of the Act apply in few, if any, of the 500-600 abortions performed by doctors every day in Britain,” he added.
“The department of health has worked incessantly since the 1967 Act was passed to maximize the provision of abortion. Earlier this year Professor Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, issued a circular re-stating the need to observe the statutory requirements. But officials in the department along with the RCOG and others, continue to show total disregard for unborn children and the law, and instead promote a ‘crime between manslaughter and murder’, to quote Mr Justice Cooke,” concluded Mr Tully.