A childless woman who was so desperate to have kids that she tried to smuggle a baby into Britain from the Phillipines has won a judge's sympathy.
Lord Justice Toulson said women like Carmen Thomas who break the law to bring a child home should be shown mercy, not treated as 'people traffickers'.The court heard that Carmen was so desperate to become a mother that she pretended a girl born in the Philippines to a couple 'who could not afford to keep her' was her own.
She was jailed after giving the baby her surname, signing her birth certificate and seeking a resettlement visa for her.
But she will be freed next month after judges in London's Criminal Appeal Court cut her sentence because they understood her overwhelming desire for a child and said she ought not to be treated as a 'people trafficker'.
Carmen, 50, from Sunderland, attempted to get around the UK's complex adoption laws by making plans to smuggle the baby illegally into the country. After visiting the islands with husband Mark, a security guard, she tried to bring the baby back with her by pretending she had given birth to her there.
But discrepancies on her passport when she applied to embassy officials for a visa for the baby 'gave the lie' to her claim of motherhood and revealed that she had not been in the Philippines at the time she reported she had given birth.
The application for a settlement visa was 'unsurprisingly rejected' and she was arrested on her return to the UK. The judge said that although a crime, she was motivated by 'her and her husband's desire to adopt a child'.
She was jailed for six months at Newcastle Crown Court on January 22, having pleaded guilty to trying to facilitate a breach of immigration laws.
However, Lord Justice Toulson, sitting with Mr Justice Griffith Williams and Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, cut her sentence by a third, meaning she will be freed next month.
Lord Justice Toulson said: "She and her husband had wanted to adopt a child, and she had believed she had adopted the baby.
"She had posed as the birth mother because she knew it would have taken a long time to complete the adoption process in the Philippines and the UK. This was an attempt – not a sophisticated one, but it was persisted in – to circumvent legal adoption proceedings. The offence was completely out of character.
"She attempted to facilitate the entry into the UK, knowing that her actions constituted a breach of immigration law. This was a deliberate attempt to circumvent the immigration laws, which required much foresight and planning.
"Offending like this calls for general deterrence, but it is important to note that what was motivating Mrs Thomas was her and her husband's desire to adopt a child, and this was not a case of trafficking.
"While an immediate custodial sentence was inevitable, and that sentence must reflect the need for deterrence, we are satisfied that a sentence of four months imprisonment was sufficient in these circumstances."
Speaking from their Wearside home, husband Mark, 51, said: "I was shocked by the original sentence. My wife has just been naive.
"She's not a bad person, and she would not do any harm to anyone. She was asked to look after the child, and she just wanted to do the right thing."