Couple jailed for raping 12-week-old baby

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The Independent Online

A man and woman have been jailed for raping a 12-week-old baby and photographing the abuse.

The couple were supposed to be babysitting the child for a single mother who needed help while moving home.

Alan Webster, 40, was jailed for life after pleading guilty at St Albans Crown Court to rape, indecent assault, permitting indecent images to be taken of a child and making indecent images in February and March 2004. The judge said he should spend a minimum of 12 years in prison before being considered for release.

His girlfriend Tanya French, 19, was jailed for five years and given an extended licence period of five years after admitting the same charges. Webster was also found guilty of indecently assaulting a 14-year-old girl who was a regular visitor to the home he shared with French in Hatfield, Hertfordshire.

The mother of the baby, who was introduced to French by a friend, initially refused the couple's offer to babysit. But as a single mother she needed someone to look after her child while she moved home and decorated, the court heard.

The mother was unaware of the abuse until the police visited her home after finding photographs of the assaults at Webster's home.

Sentencing Webster, Judge Findlay Baker said: "These offences were committed against the most vulnerable victim it is possible to imagine - a little baby. There are no words to express the abhorrence such offending generates." Sentencing French, he said: "You did not shrink away from the acts in which you joined. Rather, you keenly looked forward to them.

"However, I have to accept you are to some extent a victim yourself."

The offences were discovered after Hertfordshire Police were alerted by international law enforcers that Webster had downloaded about 7,000 indecent images from the internet.

Officers searched his house in Hatfield in July last year and found images showing Webster and French committing acts of abuse.

Webster admitted four charges of rape, five of indecent assault, two of permitting indecent images to be taken of children and two counts of making indecent images of children relating to the abuse of the baby. He also pleaded guilty to a charge of indecent assault in relation to the 14-year-old and seven offences of possessing child abuse images.

French admitted one charge of rape, four indecent assaults, two charges of permitting indecent images to be taken of children and two counts of making indecent images of children.

After the hearing Carol Taylor, head of child protection for Hertfordshire County Council, said: "If a child cannot be cared for by a registered childcare provider it is vitally important that parents know and trust the adults that are entrusted with their child's welfare."

Chris Cloke, head of child protection awareness at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said: "This is a barbaric case. It is a sharp reminder of the reality that although rare and difficult to comprehend, babies are abused and need protection."