Reid seeks review of paedophile's sentence as girl's family hit out

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Indy Politics

John Reid called on the courts yesterday to reconsider a judge's ruling that could allow a paedophile who abducted and abused a three-year-old girl to be freed in just over five years.

Mr Reid made the move just hours after Craig Sweeney, 24, was given a life sentence at Cardiff Crown Court for snatching the girl from her home in Cardiff and sexually assaulting her three times, but was told he must serve a minimum sentence of just five years and 108 days before being considered for parole.

The girl's family reacted with fury to the tariff and the Home Office said Mr Reid would write to the Attorney General, asking him to consider referring the case to the Court of Appeal. A Home Office spokesman said: "Life sentences are the ultimate sanction a court can make. However, the Home Secretary is concerned that the tariff Craig Sweeney has been given does not reflect the seriousness of this crime and is writing to the Attorney General to ask him to consider referring the sentence to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient."

Sweeney, from Newport, south Wales, committed the assault about 17 months after being released halfway though a three-year sentence for sexually assaulting a six-year-old girl. He had only just finished his time on licence for the first offence.

The court heard Sweeney abducted the girl from her home in Llanrumney at 9.40pm on 2 January while her mother was on the telephone. He bundled her into his car as the girl's panic-stricken mother banged on her window for him to stop. He drove back to his home where he sexually assaulted her. A few hours later he sexually assaulted her again after driving to the Swindon area.

The girl was rescued by police in Wiltshire when Sweeney crashed his car between Marlborough and Hungerford in the early hours of the following day after being chased for jumping a traffic light and driving without his headlights on.

Sue Ferrier, for the prosecution, said the victim was taken to hospital in Swindon and was found to have suffered significant internal injuries.

In a witness impact statement read to the court, the girl's mother said: "Before the incident [the girl] was very talkative, confident, bubbly and lovable. She has become distant, moody, emotional and quite depressed."

The Recorder of Cardiff, Judge John Griffith Williams QC, told Sweeney: "You were convicted in April 2003 of indecent assault of a six-year-old so I'm required to assume there is a significant risk to the public of serious injury - whether physical, psychological or both - caused by you committing further offences.

"You have shown yourself since the arrest to be a totally devious man ...Clearly real care must be taken in future to ensure you will not be released where there is a significant risk of any reoffending."

Anne Tyson, the solicitor representing the victim's family, said: "The family believes today's sentence is an insult to their three-year-old daughter and that there are grave failings in the criminal justice system that need to be urgently addressed ... The victim's family is now calling for the Government to ... significantly increase the prison sentences given to paedophiles."

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