'No angel' sex abuse case man jailed: Court of Appeal criticises judge for his unacceptable comment about girl, nine

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A BABYSITTER freed on probation by a judge who described his nine-year-old sex attack victim as 'no angel', was jailed for four months by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

The crown court judge concerned was criticised by the appeal court and his comment was described as 'unacceptable'.

But Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, also condemned the media for taking Judge Ian Starforth Hill's comment out of context.

'We wish to stress that it does not assist the administration of true justice for a campaign to be mounted on the basis of a phrase ripped out of context and used to vilify a judge,' he said.

The case of Karl Gambrill, the 18-year-old babysitter who tried to have intercourse with the child after climbing in her bed, provoked a storm of public protest last month - and outraged the child's parents - when Judge Starforth Hill freed him on probation after making his remark about the child. The comment had apparently been provoked by a social services report of the girl having previously been the object of an older boy's sexual interest.

Gambrill, now 21, had denied attempted rape, indecent assault and indecency with a child, but admitted attempted unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl aged under 13 - a plea accepted by the court.

Although the offence happened three years ago, it only came to light last September after the girl told a friend's mother. Until then she had only hinted at what had occurred and her parents failed to appreciate what she was trying to tell them.

Yesterday, John Nutting, counsel for the Attorney General, made no reference to the judge's comment, but argued that probation for an offence on such a young child by someone in a position of trust was 'unduly lenient'.

The appeal judges agreed, saying the offence was so serious it merited a prison sentence. But Lord Taylor said because it was an isolated offence by a young man of previous good character, and because of the ordeal he and his family had faced because of the publicity - they had been forced to move house and both Gambrill and his father had lost their jobs - the prison sentence would be restricted to four months. That will almost certainly enable Gambrill to take up his place at Cardiff University.

Of Judge Starforth Hill, 71, Lord Taylor said: 'The comment that this nine-year-old was no angel herself should never have been made.' However, said Lord Taylor, the trial judge had also said that did not provide any excuse for Gambrill and that the girl could in no way be blamed for what had been done to her.

Lord Taylor said he had not seen either of these comments reported anywhere.' While the judge's remark was unacceptable we have to say that the way it was siezed upon by the media, extracted from its context and emblazoned in headlines, was regrettable.'

Outside court, Gambrill's parents refused to comment. But the girl's mother, who cannot be named to protect the victim's identification, said: 'We still do not feel justice has been done. We are still not happy.'

Law report, page 26