A man who stole a car with a sleeping eight-month-old baby strapped in the back seat allegedly feared its parents would beat him up if he returned the infant.
A Melbourne court heard that Gassam Chehade realised within seconds the baby was present in a capsule, but drove for 2.7 kilometres before "dumping" the boy outside a hairdressing salon.
It was alleged Mr Chehade, 42, put the capsule on the ground, pointed to the it and then left after leaving a mobile phone belonging to one of the parents, which had been in the car.
Melbourne Magistrates Court was told on Thursday the car and baby were taken at 10.30am on June 6 this year from outside a factory in Campbellfield where the boy's parents were working in their business.
Prosecutor Karen Argiropoulos said Mr Chehade saw the car with its keys in the ignition, got in it and drove away.
The court heard that when the baby's mother, who was unloading goods from another car about five metres away, saw the other car reverse and drive off, she ran after it "screaming out, saying that her baby was in the car".
Ms Argiropoulos said that on the accused's version to police, he did not know the baby was present until a few seconds after driving off when he heard a noise, turned around and saw it.
He continued driving for about 2.7 kilometres until he stopped, removed the baby in its capsule and "dumped" him outside the salon, she said.
Ms Argiropoulos told magistrate Catherine Lamble the accused said in a police record of interview he was motivated to continue driving by a desire to leave the baby somewhere safe so it could be reunited with its parents.
She said he contemplated returning the baby to his parents "but was afraid they may beat him up".
The committal hearing on Thursday did not involve any evidence or the calling of witnesses, but was held for the Crown and defence counsel Tara Hartnett to make submissions about whether there was enough evidence for a jury to convict him of kidnapping, which carries a maximum jail term of 20 years.
Ms Argiropoulos argued there was, and also that there was enough evidence to sustain the alternative charge of child stealing and other offences.
She said one of elements to the charge of kidnapping was taking a person away by "force or fraud" which was relevant to the accused's alleged conduct.
Ms Hartnett conceded there was enough evidence for a jury to consider the charge of child stealing, which has a maximum sentence of five years jail, but not for kidnapping. Ms Hartnett said that the car was black, the windows were tinted and when Mr Chehade heard a noise he turned to see the baby.
She said he did not want to leave the baby in an unsafe place, like the side of the road, so he stopped at the salon, made eye contact with a woman behind the counter and then pointed to the capsule.
Ms Hartnett acknowledged it would have been a "horrifying experience" for the baby's parents.
In her decision, Ms Lamble said she was satisfied the question of whether force was used was a matter that should be considered by a jury.
There was also enough evidence on the charges of kidnapping and child stealing for a properly instructed jury to convict Mr Chehade, she said.
Mr Chehade, who did not apply for bail, pleaded not guilty to all charges, which also included conduct endangering life, but to a charge of theft of a motor vehicle he pleaded guilty.
He will appear on Friday in the County Court for a directions hearing.