Mercy cries for baby thief

St Catherine woman to be sentenced today; parents of stolen baby seek compensation

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 19, 2019

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RESIDENTS of Harkers Hall, a deep rural St Catherine community, are appealing for the judge to have mercy on a fellow resident who pleaded guilty on July 18 to child stealing and is scheduled to be sentenced today in the Supreme Court.

The woman, Peta-Gay Ffrench, was taken into custody on February 5 when she turned up at the Registrar General's Department in Twickenham Park, St Catherine, attempting to register a baby.
A subsequent DNA test confirmed on February 7 that the baby, stolen from the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston on January 9, belonged to Sinclair Hutton and his common-law wife Suzzett Whyte.

Prior to the matter being transferred to the Supreme Court, it was said in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on April 25, that Ffrench lurked at the hospital for almost a month before stealing the child.

According to court documents, Ffrench was first seen at the hospital by two witnesses on December 10, 2018.

On Tuesday, when the Jamaica Observer visited her community, some residents said they were surprised by her actions and begged the court to have mercy during sentencing.

A resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “I feel really bad about it because she is a really good person and so we would really want the judge to give her a suspended sentence.

Allow her to do some counselling. I don't condone what she did, but I think she should get a next chance to life. We a beg the judge to have mercy on her. I know her from birth and she never get in a trouble yet, no trouble that we know of,” she said, adding she's taken aback by Ffrench's action.

Another resident, 84-year-old Doris Vickers, shared similar sentiments.

“Mi would a want them give her a chance. Her mother died recently and as her mother died she go do dis. She shouldn't do it but mi would a want them (judge) give her a chance,” the elderly woman told the Observer.

One of Ffrench's childhood friends, who did not want to be identified, said she believes she was suffering from depression when she stole the baby as a result of two miscarriages.

Under Section 69 of the Offences Against the Persons Act she could be liable to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding seven years, with or without hard labour.

In the meantime, parents of the baby are seeking monetary compensation from the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) over the theft of the child.

Attorney-at-law Peter Champagnie, who is representing Whyte and Hutton, told the Observer yesterday that he had sought audience with SERHA, however, he said he has not yet received a response.

“We have, since this incident, written to the chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority inviting the board to a meeting in terms of compensation for the parents. They were traumatised and they believe that, notwithstanding the fact that somebody is before the court who pleaded guilty, there was negligence on the part of the hospital in terms of security checks and balances,” he said. The letter, he said, was sent to the authority before Ffrench pleaded guilty to child stealing in the Supreme Court on July 18.

“I know that since this incident they have sought to install CCTV cameras, but we believe that the hospital has a duty of care to ensure that all patients are secure and that this sort of thing would not and should not happen,” Champagnie said.

“Part of the approach that we had taken in this matter was to await the outcome of the criminal matter because that is likely to impact on how we treat with this matter,” the attorney explained.
Champagnie, admitting that he had not stipulated a time frame for SERHA to respond, said he would not have known when the criminal matter would come to an end.

However, he said if SERHA does not respond by next week, he has been instructed to put the matter before the court.


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