Baby Abbie's abductor put on probation

Julie Kelley, 22, who took Abbie Humphries from hospital five hours after she was born, in an abduction that gripped the nation, was yesterday put on probation for three years.

Mr Justice Laws ordered that Kelley, who admitted kidnapping the baby in July and holding her for 16 days, spend the time in a psychiatric unit. Kelley, who is due to give birth in three weeks, remained expressionless, then smiled slightly when the judge delivered the verdict after deliberating for 90 minutes.

William Everard, the prosecuting solicitor, described how Kelley, disguised in a nurse's uniform, sunglasses and wig, had calmly and confidently walked into ward B27 of the Queen's Medical Centre materity unit in Nottingham on 1 July and taken the baby from its father, Roger. She said she was taking Abbie for a routine hearing check.

Mr Everard claimed she had abducted the baby to continue the lie told in September last year to her boyfriend, Leigh Gilbert, that she was pregnant with his child. Mr Everard claimed Mr Gilbert and his family had believed Kelley's story. The court heard that at the time of the abduction, Kelley was in fact three months pregnant. Kelley has always insisted that she was pregnant in September last year and that she lost the baby.

The prosecution insisted the abduction was premeditated, and said Kelley had bought the wig the day before the abduction and had also visited the ward on the same day.

Helena Kennedy QC, Kelley's barrister, claimed that Kelley was suffering from a personality disorder and had been, or believed she was, pregnant when she told Mr Gilbert. She begged for mercy for Kelley, insisting she needed psychiatric treatment, not a prison sentence.

The judge said he was sure Kelley had gone to the medical centre to take a baby, but that her personality disorder diminished her moral responsibility at the time.

He took into consideration Kelley's difficult childhood, her previous good character, and the well-being of her unborn child.