Paedophile murderer Roy Whiting's minimum jail term reduced

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The Independent Online

Schoolgirl Sarah Payne's murderer Roy Whiting had his 50-year minimum jail term reduced by 10 years by a High Court judge today.





Paedophile Whiting, 51, was not present to hear Mr Justice Simon, sitting in London, announce his decision on the number of years he must spend behind bars before he can apply for parole.



But the child's mother, Sara, was present in the packed courtroom for the proceedings.



Whiting was jailed for life in 2001 for the kidnap and murder of eight-year-old Sarah, from West Sussex.



In 2002 the 50-year tariff - the least he must serve before becoming eligible to apply for parole - was set by the then-home secretary David Blunkett.



The judge said today he had concluded that the "appropriate" minimum term was a period of 40 years.







After announcing the new minimum term, the judge said: "I invite everyone present in court, before we go about our daily business, to pause and for a moment remember Sarah Payne who would now be 18 if she had not been murdered, and reflect the grave loss her death has caused to her family and others who loved her."



As the judge made his comments, Sarah's mother linked hands with a man sitting next to her but was otherwise impassive.



The original decision meant that Whiting would not be considered for release until he was in his nineties.



Mr Justice Simon said he had concluded that the minimum term should be "set at 40 years".



Video: Payne killer sentence reduced



From that "must be deducted the time spent on remand which is calculated to be 234 days".



But he stressed the sentence on Whiting remained one of imprisonment for life and he would be detained "unless and until the Parole Board is satisfied that he no longer presents a risk to the public".



He said: "Even if the Parole Board decides then or at some time in the future to authorise his release, he will be on licence for the rest of his life."







Sarah was snatched by Whiting on July 1 2000 near the home of her grandparents in West Sussex.



After a huge search, her body was discovered in a field 16 days later off the A29 at Pulborough.



Since the murder, the child's mother has campaigned tirelessly for victims' rights and for a change in the law to publicise where sex offenders live.



She was made an MBE for services to child protection in 2008.



In his written ruling, Mr Justice Simon said he had received a victim impact statement from Sarah's mother "in which the devastating effect on her family of Sarah's abduction and murder is very movingly described".



The trial judge had recommended that Whiting should be detained for the rest of his life and should never be released.



The then Lord Chief Justice recommended setting a minimum term of 28 years before Whiting could be considered for release by the Parole Board.



It was submitted by the Crown Prosecution Service, said the judge, that "if this offence were committed now, it would call for a full life term, that this reflects the seriousness of this type of offence and consequently a minimum term of 50 years as notified by the Secretary of State was appropriate".



The judge said: "The applicant (Whiting) submits that the appropriate term was the term of 28 years which was recommended by the Lord Chief Justice."



At the time the Lord Chief Justice had the overall responsibility for making recommendations as to the appropriate period of punishment and deterrence in every case of murder.



Mr Justice Simon added: "It is submitted that in this case a term of 50 years was disproportionate and the minimum term of 28 years recommended by the Lord Chief Justice should be imposed."







Walking slowly with the help of a stick and surrounded by her surviving children - Lee, 23, Luke, 21, and 15-year-old Charlotte - Mrs Payne spoke to the press afterwards.



She said: "The family is clearly disappointed that the tariff has been reduced, but he will be well into his 80s before he is eligible, so it's not a terrible, terrible thing, and could have been a lot worse, so we carry on as before.



"He's in prison now, he can't hurt any children there.



"All the time it was 50 years, my family and I could relax - there was no way he could be near any children and hurt them.



"Right now, of course, we are a little bit reeling.



"The family obviously doesn't get a parole date. There's no end to this. This is our life from now on.



"This is about Sarah, it's not about Roy Whiting, so let's get it back to the little girl it's about.



"The man is a danger to children and will remain so as long as he lives and breathes."







Detective Inspector Jeff Riley, of Sussex Police's major crime branch, said: "Roy Whiting was quite rightly convicted for this terrible crime and given a life sentence.



"The court has reduced his tariff on appeal.



"This decision has come 10 years after the abduction and tragic death of Sarah in July 2000 and has clearly had a significant impact on Sarah's family and our thoughts are with them today."









Asked about the impact statement she gave, Mrs Payne said: "Although it's 10 years and we have moved forward, my children are very different from the same family Sarah was taken from.



"We just put our thoughts and feelings out there. It's not the life we would have led."



Asked about the original 50-year minimum, she said: "All the time it was 50 years it was a good message. Life meaning life is the only fair sentence. He should die in prison."



She said she was very proud of her children and was "doing OK" after her recent illness with their support.



"There are many people who suffer strokes and never walk again so I'm one of the lucky ones really. It takes a lot of hard work."



She added: "As long as sex offenders walk the streets, I will always be there.



"I just put one foot in front of the other and hope the other one follows - quite literally these days."



Sarah's father Michael said the cut was "outrageous".



"He didn't deserve a reduction but he won't be coming out."