Husband's fury at early release plan for rapist

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A boxer who raped the disabled wife of a BBC television presenter will find out today whether he is to be released after serving only 16 months in prison.

John Archibald, 29, could be released on probation at the end of this month despite the Attorney General referring his three-year sentence to the High Court because he considered it "unduly lenient".

The husband of the 60-year-old victim yesterday attacked the criminal justice system as an "absolute scandal".

Archibald was sentenced to three years in April last year for the rape of the terminally-ill woman in her bed at a nursing home in Buckinghamshire. He had been found guilty of the crime in November at Reading Crown Court.

But a preliminary hearing before a High Court judge today will consider whether Archibald should have his conviction quashed or his sentence extended. If the judge decides not to refer the sentencing to a full hearing then Archibald will be released later this month to his home on a travellers' site in Buckinghamshire on nine months' conditional licence, supervised by the National Probation Service. Under current rules he is allowed out on probation after serving half his sentence.

The victim's husband, who has worked for 35 years for the BBC, Sky and US television networks, cannot be named to protect his wife's identity. He said yesterday: "From rape to imminent release, this case has been an absolute scandal."

He added: "This is a classic example of putting a criminals' so-called rights before justice for the victim. My wife is shocked, scared and appalled that he is being released back into the community so soon after he brutally raped her."

The reporter also complained that he has only just been told of the decision to release Archibald on 27 March.

Former Attorney General, Lord Williams, lodged an appeal for a longer sentence in May last year. The appeal will be heard at a direction hearing today at which Archibald will also ask a High Court judge to quash his conviction.

He claims that Judge Mary Jane Mowat, who heard the trial, was wrong to allow the jury to see video evidence from the victim as she was too ill to take the stand as a witness.

The Lord Chancellor's Department said that if the sentencing case was referred to a full hearing it would be dealt with before Archibald is released on probation.

Archibald was with his brother visiting another patient, a relative, at the Buckinghamshire nursing home in February 2000 when he raped the woman, who is in the final stages of Huntington's disease, in her bedroom. He plied his heavily medicated victim with cannabis and raped her twice in front of a terrified wheelchair-bound resident.

He was also convicted of indecent assault. Mark Archibald, 27, the rapist's brother, was acquitted of indecently assaulting the same woman.

Judge Mowat said that she had taken into account Archibald's IQ of 52, which she said put him "in the bottom 25 per cent of a school for the learning disabled".