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The Daily Mail
By Gemma Mullin for MailOnline
Published: 14:22 GMT, 12 August 2015 | Updated: 14:47 GMT, 12 August 2015
- Erin Sutherland, 36, smothered daughter Chloe at their Edinburgh home
- She received letter from ex-partner detailing plans for arranging access
- Court heard today Sutherland had intended to take her own life as well
- She was sentenced to three years imprisonment with a hospital direction
A mother who admitted killing her nine-month-old baby girl while suffering from postnatal depression has been jailed for three years.
Erin Sutherland, 36, smothered her daughter Chloe at their home in Edinburgh in February after receiving a letter from her ex-partner detailing his plans for arranging access.
She was originally arrested for murder but later pleaded guilty to culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility at the High Court in Edinburgh in June.
Erin Sutherland, 36, (left) smothered her daughter Chloe (right), who was nearly 10-months-old, while suffering from post-natal depression
Defence counsel Gordon Jackson QC told the court today that the circumstances were ‘extremely tragic’ and Sutherland had intended to take her own life as well.
At an earlier hearing this year, the court was told that Sutherland had previously received hospital
But when her family doctor contacted a perinatal mental health team for her to see a community psychiatric nurse (CPN) following a consultation in December last year, support could not be offered.
Advocate depute Iain McSporran said: ‘That team and the CPN were unable to offer support now that the baby was older than six months.’
Chloe’s father, Craig Steedman, was at the trial today to see his ex-partner jailed for three years
On the day of the killing, Sutherland phoned a post natal depression service at 1pm and an employee noted she was ‘anxious and seemed scared by a letter she had received from her ex-partner regarding access to the children’.
She later phoned a friend to say she had ‘put Chloe to sleep’ and when the friend went round to her house the emergency services were already there.
They found the girl limp, pale and not breathing while Sutherland appeared to be unconscious but was then sick and came round and revealed she had taken an overdose of medication.
She was drifting in and out of consciousness and said: ‘I smothered her. I suffocated her.’
Judge Lady Wise sentenced her to three years’ imprisonment with a hospital direction, meaning that she will continue treatment for her mental health difficulties.
The judge told her: ‘The circumstances of this case are tragic for all concerned and nothing I say today can alleviate the suffering of those who have lost Chloe.’
Chloe’s father Craig Steedman and other relatives were present in court for the sentencing.
A statement was read on their behalf outside the court afterwards by Tracey Curran from Victim Support Scotland.
She said: ‘Chloe’s father Craig and his family are upset and saddened that the focus of reports on this case turned to how the system had failed Erin Sutherland and not the death of his precious little girl.
‘Chloe was the victim in this case, a beautiful innocent child whose tragic senseless death is impossible to accept.
‘Craig and his family deeply regret that Erin felt unable to accept the help and support which they were so desperate to provide.
‘Sadly she seemed determined that Chloe would never be a part of either his or his family’s lives.
‘The system may have failed Erin, however it has also failed Craig as a father and most importantly it failed Chloe – his much-loved little girl who will be forever missed.’
POST NATAL DEPRESSION: A COMMON YET DEVASTATING CONDITION
Many new mothers will experience a brief period of feeling emotional, irritable and tearful after giving birth, which is commonly known as the ‘baby blues’.
Figures have shown 85 per cent of mothers can feel this way and it usually starts around three to ten days after giving birth and only lasts for a day or a few days.
However, for a smaller percentage of mothers these feelings can develop into a deeper and longer-term depression, known as postnatal, or postpartum depression.
Around 10 to 15 percent of new mothers are affected, with symptoms usually developing within six weeks of giving birth, although it can be several months later.
Common symptoms of the depression include low mood, believing you are unable to cope, difficulty sleeping and feeling like you’re not emotionally connected to your partner or baby.
Charity the Association for Post Natal Illness says it is contacted by 9,000 women every year who are suffering from depression.
Research has also shown that around one to four percent of men experience depression while their child is under one.
As long as postnatal depression is recognised and treated, it is a temporary condition you can recover from, according to the NHS.
Experts advise mothers to ask for help, however many people don’t seek treatment because they might not recognise what’s happening or may feel afraid to ask.
Treatment for postnatal depression can include self-help techniques, cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressant medicine.
PND is thought to be the result of several factors including the physical and emotional stress of looking after a newborn baby, hormonal changes and social problems including anxiety over money, and women who have a previous history of depression are deemed to be more at risk.
Some mothers experiencing depression can have some obsessive thoughts, become very frightened about doing something wrong, being in some way inadequate and having their baby taken away, or fear they may harm their baby in some way.
Most women who experience it won’t act on these thoughts, but it can still be frightening. If a mother is afraid that she may cause harm to the baby or herself then she should talk to her doctor as soon as possible.
Infanticide cases in the UK are very rare.
Figures compiled by the Office For National Statistics from between 2010/11 and 2012/13 show that in 6.4 per cent of the 1,1715 recorded homicide cases from that period the victim was aged under two (around 110 children).
Between 1995 and 1999 in England and Wales, 80 per cent of homicide victims under one year old were killed by a parent, according to research by the Home Office.
However, there are currently no statistics available for how many infant deaths were attributed to postnatal depression.