Judge condemns tabloids: Remark about eight-year-old sex assault victim 'misconstrued'

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The Independent Online
A JUDGE who described an eight-year-old sex attack victim as 'no angel', yesterday launched a blistering attack on the tabloid press.

Judge Ian Starforth Hill, 72, who retired last week, said that he received hundreds of letters backing him after the Winchester Crown Court case in June last year. He sentenced a student, Karl Gambrill, 21, to two years' probation after he admitted attempting unlawful sexual intercourse with the girl. He was later jailed when the sentence was reviewed.

Judge Starforth Hill said: 'Nowadays, if a judge passes a sentence which the tabloid press regards as lenient they use the most extreme language. I think the tabloid press may be in tune with a minority but . . . not in tune with the majority of the letters I get. I don't want the press to be barred, I just want them to be fairer . . .'

The judge told BBC Radio Solent: 'In this case the man pleaded guilty. . . .In the course of sentencing him, I said that although the girl may not exactly be an angel, that's of no help to you for what you've done. And those words get so misconstrued beyond adventure. I had hundreds of letters saying if all the world thinks that all children are angels they must be batty. All children certainly are not angels. The only reason I used that phrase - and it wasn't meant to be taken totally out of context - was because I had been told by counsel that there had been certain reasons for thinking that might be true.'

The judge added: 'We not only give our best but we have the experience to help us, and what you read in the press hardly ever bears any relation to the truth. You never find a reporter from the Sun, for instance, in your court. You may find one local reporter, and what the Sun publishes doesn't half the time bear any relation to the truth. The public simply don't have a fair opportunity of judging the judges.'

Neil Wallis, deputy editor of the Sun, said last night: 'The evidence is that the vast majority tend to take our view rather than his. It was not the Sun or other newspapers which described the little girl as 'not exactly an angel'.'