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Jailed for drunkenly taking girl from play park

A WOMAN who seized a young girl and detained her against her will at a Lerwick play park has been sent to jail for two years and four months.

Sarah Irvine, whose address was given as Grampian Prison, took the seven year old a short distance to a nearby unoccupied house while drunk as other children watched on in concern.

Defence agent Tommy Allan stressed that while the 31 year old could not remember the incident due to being intoxicated, there was no suggestion she intended to harm the child.

Irvine previously pleaded guilty to conducting herself in a disorderly manner at Sandveien play park and elsewhere in the housing estate on 17 April.

She seized the girl, lifted her off the ground, carried her away and detained her against her will, as well as committing a breach of the peace.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie told Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday that Irvine, who appeared from custody, was a “chronic alcoholic” who had been released from prison just days before the offence.

In what he called “one of the most serious breach of the peaces I’ve had to deal with”, the fiscal said children noticed Irvine “obviously drunk” and attempting to open the door to a nearby property while they were playing at the park at around 6.30pm.

The seven year old girl ended up standing alone outside the play park gate when a younger child she was with ran away, with Irvine then grabbing her off the ground.

Mackenzie said a boy shouted “it’s time to go home” to the girl in an attempt to see her released.

The fiscal said the boy told police the girl was “struggling” before Irvine made off into an alleyway.

Some of the children attended a nearby property to raise the alarm and the occupant, who recalled seeing Irvine drunk earlier in the day, went to find them.

Irvine was standing over the girl and mentioned taking her away from the “bad boys” before the seven year old went to the other adult.

Police had been patrolling the area at the time after receiving calls about Irvine’s drunken behaviour prior to the incident. They were quickly on the scene and apprehended her.

Mackenzie said the incident would have a “significant impact” on the girl, as well as her family and friends.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said Irvine was stressed about an upcoming social work appointment, as she was worried access to her daughter might have been limited.

Meeting up with her sister after her stint in prison, Irvine ended up drinking and also took legal highs, as well as possibly other substances.

Allan said in mitigation that the incident was “fortunately fairly brief” and saw Irvine take the child 30 or 40 yards.

While she has no recollection of the incident, Irvine – as a mother herself – found the idea of the offence “extremely difficult to cope with”, Allan said.

He said his client’s behaviour had been “bizarre” prior to the offence.

The solicitor said evidence from some of the children stated that the victim was not crying, adding that his client may have taken a “negative” view of the behaviour of some of the boys in the play park.

He said Irvine, who was known in the area, was familiar with the mother of the child in question and when the girl was called on by the other adult, “there was no opposition” to her going.

Irvine “may have thought she knew who the child was”, but because she can’t remember the incident, Allan couldn’t elaborate further.

While recognising the impact the incident may have had on the children, the solicitor said there “must be a balance” and said it was a “drunk person going past a play park and doing something stupid”.

He said Irvine and her partner were thinking of moving away from Shetland, adding she would be happy to seek help for her alcohol problems.

Sheriff Philip Mann told Irvine that she may not have intended to “cause harm or distress to the child…but the fact is that your behaviour did have that result.”

He suggested the impact of the incident could be likened to an assault in which injuries are obtained by a matter of chance, rather than intention.

But he said the distress caused will last for a “considerable period of time” and has “exploded” the idea that Shetland is a safe place to raise children for the family involved.

Sheriff Mann rued the effect “demon drink” has on Irvine and its “significant impact” her actions had on people.

“I wish I had a magic wand for you, but I don’t,” he said.

The sheriff gave Irvine two years in jail for the offence, reduced to 19 months to reflect that she has been in custody since April.

In addition, she was given nine months in jail on a returning order relating to offending soon after being released from prison.

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