Mother jailed over 'daughter abducted' claim

 

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A mother of four has been jailed for six months for falsely reporting her daughter had been abducted from her backyard.

The bogus account of how her two-year-old child was snatched from her home in Blackpool, Lancashire, led to a 13-day police manhunt and the arrest of two innocent men.

Janine Wiles, 24, wailed as she was led from the dock at Preston Crown Court after Judge Pamela Badley said it was her public duty to jail her.

The defendant gave police an emotive account of how she saw the "offender" walk off with her daughter in his arms before she intervened and grabbed her back.

The subsequent investigation involving 50 officers cost in excess of £50,000 and included an identity parade in which Wiles made a false identification, the court heard.

It led to "public disquiet" in the neighbourhood as, unknown to Wiles, another abduction had been reported just streets away at around the same time last June.

Sentencing, the judge told Wiles: "You made a wholly false complaint to the police which was persistent, having made three statements in a graphic and moving account which caused an intensive police inquiry - leading to the arrest of two wholly innocent men.

"The effect of your actions, first of all, was public disquiet in a community... that causes concern to every parent, every school, every responsible adult."

Wiles pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to intending to pervert the course of justice.

The defendant, who is expecting her fifth child in September, was told she would serve half her sentence and it was "highly likely" she would give birth after she was freed.

Francis McEntee, prosecuting, said Wiles's initial complaint on the evening of June 30 led to a "wild goose chase".

"She gave a fabricated story in which she said she saw a male walking out of the rear of the address with a two-year-old child in his arms," he said.

"She described a confrontation and having to grab the child from him, and the male made off from the scene on a pedal cycle."

Police were called to the house in Erdington Road as a full-blown investigation began with extensive screening of available CCTV footage in the neighbourhood.

Wiles went on to give a "very detailed" description of the man and an "emotive account" of her child screaming "Mummy, Mummy" with another child, who was playing in the backyard, shouting out: "Janine, he's got her."

The prosecutor continued: "As the inquiry developed, a number of discrepancies arose from the information provided by this defendant and those discrepancies were put to her on July 12 when she admitted she had, in fact, essentially made the whole incident up."

Wiles was arrested and told detectives that a 10-year-old girl had told her a stranger had entered the locked backyard, although there was no evidence to support this.

Mr McEntee said Wiles "took on board" the girl's description to her and "effectively developed the story".

The resulting investigation led to "repeated concerns and calls from those living in the neighbourhood who were all in fear that this offender may strike again".

He added: "The police were in no position to allay those fears because they were chasing a phantom offender."

Virginia Hayton, defending, said Wiles, of Kent Road, had been suffering from depression at the time of the offence after recently breaking up with her partner.

The cry for help had ironically provided the support she needed as her lover moved back in and she also received help from her mother and local agencies.

Her former partner, and father of all of her children, Darren Harbutt, formerly from Wolverhampton, was in court to support her.

Asking for a suspended sentence to be imposed, Ms Hayton said: "She is genuinely remorseful. She is absolutely terrified with the prospect of immediate imprisonment.

"This was not premeditated. She found herself getting swept away."

Judge Badley said there was no "positive reason" for her committing the offence.

"It is not a revenge case out of bitterness," she told Wiles. "It is perhaps more out of need in your case.

"You required attention. You had a hard life - the care of four children and a relationship that was slightly lukewarm at the time.

"There is, however, a public aspect to this. I have a public duty regarding anyone who causes an investigation of this type and, most importantly, that brings about the arrest and undoubtedly the worry with those who were being investigated for a crime that had not taken place.

"You have not had an easy life but at the same time you are blessed with four lovely children, a relationship which is now stronger and the prospect of another child.

"At the age of 24 you have a great deal to look forward to but I am sorry to say that I have come to the conclusion that this has to be an immediate sentence of custody."

Detective Chief Inspector Andrea Barrow said: "This is an extremely serious offence and was a huge waste of police time.

"We had a major incident room open with a large team of highly skilled detectives and police staff working on this case which took up a huge amount of time and resources.

"Most importantly this had a massive impact on the residents of Blackpool who were obviously concerned that there was a man at large who had tried to abduct a child when in fact this simply was not true. Parents in the area were hugely affected and changed their activities because of their concerns for their own children.

"I hope the public can see that as a force we took the initial report extremely seriously and dealt with it appropriately. However, when it was established that the story was fabricated we, along with the CPS, felt that action had to be taken against Wiles for her irresponsible behaviour."

PA