New law too late for torture case

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The Independent Online
Three torturers were jailed for up to seven years last night following a vicious beating in which they imprisoned a young woman in her home and forced her to eat her own vomit.

The defendant singled out by the judge as the ringleader, Stuart Thurston, a 20 -year-old former public schoolboy, has previous convictions for robbery and burglary.

Under a tougher sentencing policy outlined yesterday in the Home Secretary's White Paper, Protecting the Public, Thurston would have faced an automatic life sentence for his part in the torture. But under current laws, if he behaves well in prison, he is likely to be freed after serving three and a half years of his seven-year sentence.

The victim, Maxine Bennett, spent two weeks in hospital recovering from her 19-hour ordeal at the end of April last year.

In passing sentence last night Judge Stanley Spence, sitting at Reading Crown Court, said the three defendants, Thurston, Tracey Blake, 31, and her boyfriend Antonio Barrow, 20, possessed a "cold-blooded brutality". Blake was jailed for a total of six years, and Barrow, whom the judge said had given Miss Bennett a drink, was jailed for a total of five years, to be served in a Young Offenders' Institution.

Michael Howard's White Paper also proposes "greater honesty in sentencing", saying prisoners should serve the full terms of their sentences.

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