Eight years for Mother who caused late abortion of her baby

5 September 2013

Sarah Louise Catt aged 35, took medication when she was 39 weeks pregnant to cause an early delivery.   

Catt had a scan at hospital in Leeds at 30 weeks confirming her pregnancy, however suspicions were raised when she failed to register the birth.  The Court was told that Catt had been having an affair with a work colleague for 7 years, and that her husband was unaware of the pregnancy and was not consulted about her decision to abort the pregnancy.

She maintained that she had a legitimate abortion at a clinic in Manchester, but her computer records showed that she had purchased a drug over the internet called Misoprostol, from a company in Mumbai, in India.  This is a drug known to induce labour.

Despite her initial denials, Catt pleaded guilty in July 2012 to administering a poison with intent to procure a miscarriage.

Mr Justice Cooke in sentencing Catt, stated that she had robbed the baby of it's life and in his view the seriousness of the crime lay between manslaughter and murder.  The Judge went on to say that in his view Catt had clearly thought that the man with whom she was having an affair was the father of the child and she had at no stage shown any remorse for what she had done. 

In the past Catt had given a child up for adoption in 1999, she had later had a termination of a pregnancy with the agreement of her husband and on a further occasion tried to terminate another pregnancy but missed the legal limit for doing so.  She had also previously concealed another pregnancy from her husband prior to the child being born. 

Catt had told a psychiatrist that she had taken the drug whilst her husband was away and had delivered the baby boy herself at home.  She said that the child was not breathing or moving and that she had buried the child herself, but would not reveal the location.

Thankfully this is an unusual offence.  There is also a similar offence of administering a poison with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm (Section 23 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861) and also administering a poison with intent to injure, aggrieve or annoy (Section 24 OAPA 1861).  Section 23 is the more serious of the two offences attracting a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, whereas the Section 24 offence attracts a maximum of 5 years imprisonment.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.