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20 May 2016, 18:27
Two West Midlands teenagers who plotted to kidnap babies by offering free designer children's clothes through a fake Facebook page have been sentenced to 12 months behind bars.
Holly Kelland, 18, and 17-year-old Codie Farrar, tried to dupe parents into giving away their contact details over the social networking site and tricked one mother into handing out her home address.
Murder mystery actress Farrar then visited the woman at her home, posing as a social worker, in September 2015, and asked to take the baby away for a half-hour "medical assessment''.
However, the mother became suspicious when she saw the would-be kidnapper holding the baby's head incorrectly, and raised the alarm.
Both schoolfriends had already admitted conspiracy to kidnap three babies, identified only as U, S and W, and were at Derby Youth Court on Friday to be sentenced.
District Judge Jonathan Taaffe was told Kelland had been the architect of what was described as a "detailed'' scheme by the girl's own solicitor, and had then recruited her "misguided'' fellow plotter.
Kelland had been faking a pregnancy and suffering from undiagnosed mental health issues during the time of the offences, according to her solicitor Elaine Stapleton.
She lied to her own mother about carrying a child, and had a fully-equipped nursery with a cot at her home, the court was told.
In a series of text message exchanges, discovered on devices seized by police after both girls' arrest, Kelland had told her co-conspirator: "Don't feel like baby chasing today.''
Later, she said: "Did you bin the SIM (card)?''
Sentencing, Judge Taaffe told them: "By its very nature this is a case of extreme seriousness.''
He said: "A plan was hatched to kidnap a baby and not followed through, and fortunately it was only the alertness of the mother (of U) that prevented the actual kidnap taking place.
"It was not a momentary decision but a prolonged period of action which involved setting up of a fake Facebook account to obtain details of new-born babies and families' details.
"It involved travelling to areas far away from home, and masquerading as a social worker.
"The baby was held by Codie, who was pretending to be a health care professional, and the distress caused to the babies and their mothers should not be underestimated.''
The judge added he had "reservations'' about Kelland's motive being down to a mental health issue.
He said: "I have reservations about that motive as such a reason when they, in my view, usually lead to impulsive actions rather than planned, and in many ways sophisticated actions in this case.''
Judge Taaffe added: "It is an accepted fact that Holly recruited Codie, but on the other hand Codie, as a murder mystery actress, impersonated a social worker in going to the mother's house and that's a particularly aggravating feature in this case.''
He concluded: "I'd be failing in my public duty if a custodial sentence was not imposed.
"This is a very serious set of circumstances that involved planning and sophistication, to take new-born babies from home addresses, that can only in my view be dealt with by the imposition of immediate custodial sentences.''
Both girls were each handed 12-month detention and training orders, but will serve half of that sentence on probation under youth offending team supervision.
Opening the case for the Crown, Miss Almas Ben-Aribia said a new mother described how "a young woman came into the house pretending to be a social services lady''.
The mother said the woman, who was really Farrar of Evesham in Worcestershire, then told her she had signed a form stating that social services could take away her baby for a 30-minute medical assessment.
Miss Ben-Aribia said: "The woman (Farrar) asked how old the baby was, and then described the child as 'beautiful', and asked to hold the baby.
"Her alarm was raised as the woman claiming to be a social worker did not support the baby's head properly.''
The prosecutor added: "The mother refused and said the woman became increasingly nervous and eventually left the address.
"She then informed her mother, and social services were called and confirmed this was not a bona fide visit.''
Miss Ben Aribia said the parent received a Facebook message the day before the visit offering her free baby socks, and later that she had "won a raffle for £100 of baby clothes or a Segway''.
She explained: "The mother admitted she'd previously given her home address for those (gifts) to be posted out to.''
Another mother was also contacted through the same false Facebook page, set up by Kelland, showing a video which the two girls had filmed which had a piece of paper with her name on being "picked out of a glass bowl''.
A third parent also received a friend request and a message from the social media account asking if she wanted "free designer baby socks'', but provided a relative's address and in the event received no clothing.
Miss Stapleton said her client, who is from Wolverhampton, had produced a fake 3-D baby scan and sonogram from website FakeABaby.com to convince her mother she was pregnant.
The 18-year-old also admitted three charges of fraud by false representation, after the court heard she sold Segways on Facebook in part to fund the child abduction plan and recruit Farrar.
For those three further offences she was handed another 12-month detention order to be served concurrently with her term for the conspiracy to kidnap.
Louise Sweet QC, for Farrar, said her her client was ``immature'' for her age.
Ms Sweet added: ``She's vulnerable, easily led and often does not realise she is being used and manipulated and therein lies the light being shone on who she is.''
She went on: ``This was not Codie's plan.
``She was not an organiser but a follower and her motives, as far as she was concerned were just misguided.''