Sunday 17 December 2017

Mum who tried to abduct girl from crèche spared jail

Rebecca Cunningham leaves court yesterday. Photo: Courtpix
Rebecca Cunningham leaves court yesterday. Photo: Courtpix

Sonya McLean

A mother-of-three who tried to abduct a young girl from a crèche believing it to be her own daughter has been given an 18-month suspended sentence.

Rebecca Cunningham (34) was in a drug-induced psychosis and searching for her own child when she appeared at the back garden of the south Dublin child care facility.

She then took a girl who she thought was her own three-year-old daughter. The child took Cunningham's hand and was walking out of the facility with her when the manager spotted what was happening and followed her.

Garda Shane Doyle agreed with Seamus Clarke BL, prosecuting, that the manager was "calm but quite purposeful" because she didn't want to upset Cunningham. She said she needed to contact the child's mother to confirm she had permission to collect her but Cunningham replied: "I am her mother."

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that while the child was confused, she was not distressed.

Cunningham didn't let go of the girl's hand when the manager asked that she return her to the yard but she was not violent.

She didn't manage to leave the crèche with the child, who was ultimately returned to other staff, while the manager brought Cunningham to another room to sit while gardaí were alerted.

Cunningham of Rory O'Connor Park, Dun Laoghaire, pleaded guilty to abduction on September 22, 2015.

Gda Doyle confirmed that Cunningham suffers from a mental illness and has no previous convictions.

Niall Nolan BL, defending Cunningham, told a bail hearing last week that his client has a diagnosis of schizophrenia and her mental capacity is also affected by her difficulties with poly-substance abuse.

Mr Nolan said Cunningham had been extremely unwell but is now fit to plead as she is attending her psychiatrist and is compliant with her medication.


"She dropped to the lowest. Her mental health incapacitated her and led to this deeply sad and traumatic search for her daughter," Mr Nolan said.

Judge Martin Nolan complimented the crèche manager in behaving in "a responsible and sensible way".

He said the role of the court was to protect society and he didn't perceive that Cunningham was a risk as she is now taking responsibility for her mental health.

Judge Nolan suspended the 18-month sentence on strict conditions, including that Cunningham stay away from a number of named crèche and child-care facilities and areas where children are known to congregate, such as schools.

Irish Independent

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