A woman who snatched a new-born baby from a maternity hospital in Cork has been given a five-year jail sentence. The 20-year-old pleaded guilty to the offence in the Circuit Criminal Court.

Susan McGovern from Dungarvan, County Waterford, snatched baby John Donal O'Brien from the Erinville Maternity Hospital in Cork in October of last year.

Ms McGovern was described as a confused woman whose grasp of reality was of Walter Mitty proportions. She and her two younger sisters, aged 11 and 12, walked into the maternity hospital on 22 October last year, placed baby John in a carrier bag and escaped with him.

For twelve hours John O'Brien and his family waited and hoped before Sergeant Joe O'Connor and Garda Joan Wilson spotted Ms McGovern's car in Midleton and recovered the baby from a hotel there.

Within an hour he was reunited with his family. Ms McGovern apparently took the new-born baby to convince her boyfriend that she was pregnant.

Ms McGovern's barrister, Tom Creed, told the court hearing that putting Ms McGovern in jail without treatment might do more harm than good.

Judge Patrick Moran said that he was concerned that a recommendation from a High Court judge that she be detained at the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum had not been acted upon.

Judge Moran said that it would be difficult to imagine the trauma which the O'Brien family had been put through. He imposed a five-year jail sentence, suspending the final two years.

He said that he would recommend with the strongest possible force that she be detained at the Central Mental Hospital where she could receive the appropriate psychiatric treatment. Afterwards, the baby's father said that his family now wanted to put these events behind them.