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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Boy who raped teacher gets life term cut to eight years

Boy who raped teacher gets life term cut to eight years

Six years on, original sentence imposed on 12-year-old boy deemed too punitive by court of appeal

A 12-year-old boy sentenced to life imprisonment for raping his teacher has had his sentence cut to eight years.

The court of appeal said today the decision by a lower court to order that the child be detained for life was wrong.

In 2005, the boy was convicted at Teesside crown court after the jury heard that he carried out the assault on his slightly built married victim after a one-to-one teaching session, then stole her car and dumped it on Tyneside.

The attacker, originally from County Durham, is now 18. At his trial, he admitted the rape at an educational establishment in the north-east of England.

His barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, told the appeal court that the sentence should never have been passed.

The original sentencing judge had found the boy posed a "grave danger". Fitzgerald said that even if at the time this assessment may have been justified, the former schoolboy's progress towards rehabilitation while in custody had been excellent.

He has even met his victim, who still receives counselling for the attack she suffered five years ago.

The original sentence meant that he was one of the youngest people in Britain serving a life sentence.

The attorney general has the power to appeal against a sentence if he feels it is too lenient. But a spokesperson said that power could only be exercised within 28 days of the sentence being passed at the original crown court hearing.

The youth was recommended for release by the parole board last year and is now serving his sentence in a residential unit.

Fitzgerald said the terms of the life sentence meant that if his client was involved in a fight in a pub at the age of 45, he could be recalled to custody without conviction and thereafter remain behind bars for the rest of his life.

He said: "The appeal court judges set aside the life term and instead imposed an eight-year sentence, with an extra 10 years of extended licence conditions to manage the convicted rapist's rehabilitation in the community. As part of the conditions he can be recalled to prison if he breaches them.

"The sentence was not justified at the time for such a young offender, given the availability of alternatives, such as a longer than commensurate sentence, combined with an extended licence.

"Secondly, in the light of subsequent developments, it can now be seen that the sentence was inappropriate."

Lord Justice Hughes, vice-president of the criminal court of appeal, said a standard detention sentence, with an extended licence period after release, was enough to protect the public.

Hughes, who sat with Mr Justice Wyn Williams and Mr Justice King, said alternatives had been open to the sentencing judge, but he had not been informed of them at the time.

An eight-year sentence, with an extra 10 years of extended licence conditions after release, would have resulted in the boy being subject to release conditions until he was 28 or 29, he said.

"We are quite satisfied that, had the judge had the opportunity to consider that sentence, [his] conclusion ... would have been that that was the right sentence," he continued.

"Nobody put it before him and, in the circumstances, it is unsurprising that he concluded that the only available sentence was the sentence of life."

Concerns had already been raised prior to the offence about the boy's overly sexualised behaviour at such a young age, his drug and solvent abuse, violence and fire-setting. The court made an order preventing the publication of his identity.

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