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Melbourne Woman Avoids Jail After Snatching Child From A Car

A Victorian woman has avoided a prison sentence after snatching a young child from a car while coming down from the drug ice.

Chelsea Johnstone, 34, pleaded guilty to a charge of child stealing after the incident at suburban Reservoir in May last year.

A mum had momentarily left her child in her car, parked in the driveway of the family home, County Court Judge Paul Lacava said in sentencing Johnstone on Wednesday.

Johnstone had used ice in the days beforehand and was suffering from sleep deprivation when she took the child from the car and walked a short distance.

The child remained within its mother's sight and was returned a short time later, physically unharmed, after a confrontation between the mum and Johnstone, the judge noted. There's no evidence the child has suffered any adverse effects.

"The family wants to put this most unfortunate incident ... behind it," Judge Lacava said, adding Johnstone's guilty plea had "saved the mother of the child having to re-live these events".

Johnstone is herself the mother of a teenager and earned a certificate in child services in 2010.

She had been diagnosed with a schizo-affective disorder at the time of the incident but has suffered with mental illness since her early teens, exacerbated by cannabis and methamphetamine use.

Judge Lacava said the offending was spontaneous, only lasted a matter of minutes and that the child was immediately given back after the confrontation with the mum.

Johnstone was arrested the day after the incident and held in custody since while receiving mental health treatment.

Her mental health has stabilised but must be watched cautiously, he said.

Johnstone avoided a prison sentence, instead being placed on a community corrections order that requires ongoing mental health and drug treatment and six-monthly monitoring by the court.

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