Mom who sold baby avoids jail time

2016-05-18 06:00
PHOTO: INGRID OELLERMANN The woman who sold her baby after advertising the child on Gumtree waits for sentencing. She kept the scarf over her head throughout proceedings.

PHOTO: INGRID OELLERMANN The woman who sold her baby after advertising the child on Gumtree waits for sentencing. She kept the scarf over her head throughout proceedings.

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A 20-YEAR-OLD woman sat unmoving, a headscarf concealing her face, as she was sentenced to three years of correctional ­supervision plus a five-year suspended ­sentence for selling her baby in a police trap last year.

The woman, whose name is being ­withheld to protect her child’s identity, ­advertised her 19-month-old son for sale on Gumtree on the internet.

After being tipped off about the advertisement, police set up a sting operation which resulted in the woman selling the toddler to an undercover police agent for R5 000.

The “deal” was concluded in the city on October 15, and the policewoman walked away with the child after handing over the money.

Sentencing took place in front of the glare of a television camera after the crew obtained permission from regional magistrate Rose Mogwera to film the ­proceedings.

Mogwera emphasised that while there was no excuse for the mother’s actions and the baby was exposed to “all the risks” ­associated with human trafficking, she was “not a typical” human trafficker­.

“She lacks the sophistication and intellect of the usual human trafficker,” she said.

Mogwera said each case has to be ­evaluated on individual facts. She had ­carefully considered pre-sentencing reports by a probation officer, correctional officer and a psychologist.

The woman pleaded guilty to three ­charges arising from the sale of the baby, ­including human trafficking. She said she decided to sell her son after her boyfriend withdrew financial support for the baby when a DNA test confirmed he was not the father. He then demanded back the R24 000 he had paid in maintenance.

Clinical psychologist Prishika Pillay said the mother has a lower-than-average IQ and her reasoning and problem-solving ability were impaired.

Mogwera said the woman regarded the child as her only possession of worth which she could trade for money.

“It was a simplistic way of solving her problem without regard for the ramifications. This does not excuse her conduct but it indicates the type of person we are dealing with,” said Mogwera.

It was aggravating that the victim was a “small and innocent child”.

“It is expected that the mother would be the one who nurtures and protects her child. A mother is the embodiment of love in its purest form … a mother would feel ­compelled to give up her own life to protect her child. Therefore this conduct has the ­effect of sending shock waves and attracting condemnation from society,” she said.

Mogwera found the woman was less culpable due to her low intellectual capacity. She also appeared to be remorseful, was unlikely to re-offend and came from an extremely poor socioeconomic background.

Mogwera said poverty is “no licence to commit crime”, but the woman’s economic background could not be ignored. This was not a typical case where a child was knowingly sold to a trafficking syndicate or gang for profit. It was fortunate that no physical harm had befallen the baby, she added.

Mogwera warned the woman that if she fails to comply with the conditions of her correctional supervision sentence - ­including house arrest and attending ­various programmes - she can be arrested and brought back before court.

After the case the woman told reporters she was “happy” she was not going to jail.

Family members who were with her ­declined to comment.

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