Grandmother sentenced after toddler abduction

Yvonne Skeet has been sentenced to 12 months' intensive supervision. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Yvonne Skeet has been sentenced to 12 months' intensive supervision. Photo / Otago Daily Times

The woman who abducted her two-year-old granddaughter from the Otago Farmers Market last month was given a sentence of 12 months' intensive supervision when she appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.

Yvonne Annelie Skeet, 47, sickness beneficiary, of Mosgiel, took the child - who was in the care of her grandfather - from the farmers market on February 2. She later pleaded guilty to a charge of abduction.

The child was in the care of Child, Youth and Family, her grandfather being her caregiver and having a guardianship order in his favour.

Skeet, the grandfather's former wife, was named on the CYF access order as to have no contact with the child. On the day she was abducted, the child was at the farmers market with her grandfather, who was operating a stall there.

After approaching the child earlier in the day, Skeet returned to the market just after noon and took the child away in her car.

A police operation launched to find Skeet and the child ended just after 11am the next day when, after a call from a member of the public, the pair were found at a South Dunedin address.

Sentencing Skeet, Judge Stephen O'Driscoll said the "clearly pre-meditated" abduction was in "flagrant disregard" of the order for her not to contact the child.

Judge O'Driscoll said he had read the grandfather's victim impact statement, and he and his partner were "understandably devastated to find out what had occurred".

The abduction left him with feelings of guilt and fearing what might happen to his granddaughter. He told his partner the incident was "every parent or guardian's worst nightmare".

Mitigating factors were that Skeet had pleaded guilty, the child was not harmed and the abduction was short-lived, Judge O'Driscoll said, pointing out that this was not due to Skeet handing herself in.

He agreed with a psychiatric report which said the abduction was an act of "desperation" born out of Skeet's longing to see her granddaughter.

Conditions of the 12 months' supervision are that she is to undergo both a Community Alcohol and Drug Service assessment and an assessment by a probation officer and comply with any counselling recommended.

Judge O'Driscoll would also receive reports on her progress and, if she failed to comply with the conditions or reoffended, he had the option of resentencing her. If she reoffended, she would most likely be given a prison sentence.

He told Skeet he hoped the involvement of police in the abduction, her time in custody and the media coverage of her court appearances had "brought home the seriousness of what you have done".

Defence counsel Anne Stevens said earlier that, in the long term, Skeet wanted to have supervised and "perhaps unsupervised" access to her granddaughter.

"'She misses her dearly," Mrs Stevens said.

She made the point that Skeet did not try to conceal the abduction - even mentioning to another stall holder at the market that she was the girl's grandmother - and that it was not disputed that the girl was "well looked after" in the time she was in Skeet's care.

Both Mrs Stevens and crown counsel Richard Smith said they supported a sentence of intensive supervision.

- Otago Daily Times

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