Baby smuggler has sentence cut

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A CHILDLESS woman who tried to smuggle a Filipino baby back to Sunderland has had her sentence cut.

Carmen Thomas was so desperate for a baby, she pretended a child born to a poor couple in the Philippines was her own.

Thomas, of Pallion, travelled to the country, signed the little girl’s birth certificate as her mother and gave the child her own surname.

After visiting the islands last year, she attempted to bring the baby back to Sunderland, where she lives with husband Mark, by pretending she had given birth to her there.

The former nanny and care worker was jailed for six months at Newcastle Crown Court on January 22, having pleaded guilty to trying to facilitate a breach of immigration laws.

But yesterday, at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, she had her six-month sentence cut by a third.

Speaking from their Wearside home, husband Mark, 51, said: “I was shocked by the original sentence. My wife has just been naive.

“She’s not a bad person, and she would not do any harm to anyone. She was asked to look after the child, and she just wanted to do the right thing.”

Concerns were first raised when discrepancies were noticed on Thomas’s passport after she applied for a visa for the baby in June last year. They revealed she had not in fact been in the Philippines at the time she claimed she was giving birth to the babt.

The application for a settlement visa was “unsurprisingly rejected”, the appeal court heard, and she was arrested on her return to the UK.

Thomas, who originally comes from the Philippines, has been married to Mark, a security guard, for the past five years.

Yesterday’s decision by Lord Justice Toulson, sitting with Mr Justice Griffith Williams and Mr Justice Stuart Smith, means she could be freed as early as next month.

The judge underlined her and her husband’s overwhelming desire to adopt a child and said that she was no people trafficker.

Mr Thomas said: “I’m now just looking forward to having her home and putting all this behind us.”

The court heard that in 2010, Thomas was desperate for a child of her own. She was told by her sister in the Philippines that she had been “given” a baby by “a couple who could not afford to keep her”.

Mrs Thomas arranged to have the child’s Filipino birth certificate posted to her in England, so she could sign it as her mother and give her a name.

She travelled to the islands in May 2011, and in June she approached immigration officials at the British Embassy in Manila, applying for a UK settlement visa for the little girl.

Despite her failed attempt to bring the baby back to the UK, Thomas had bonded so much with her during their short time together that she is continuing to provide financial support for her, the court heard.

Allowing her appeal, Lord Justice Toulson said: “This was an attempt – not a sophisticated one, but it was persisted in – to circumvent legal adoption proceedings. The offence was completely out of character.

“Offending like this calls for general deterrence, but it is important to note that what was motivating Mrs Thomas was her and her husband’s desire to adopt a child, and this was not a case of trafficking.

“While an immediate custodial sentence was inevitable, and that sentence must reflect the need for deterrence, we are satisfied that a sentence of four months’ imprisonment was sufficient in these circumstances.”

Twitter: @craigjourno