He has asked the Crown Prosecution Service for papers in the case. He has 28 days to decide whether it should be referred to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the sentence was 'unduly lenient'.
His intervention follows angry protests by politicians and child care experts about remarks on Tuesday by Judge Starforth Hill, QC, at Winchester Crown Court where Karl Gambrill, 21, admitted attempted unlawful intercourse with the girl when he was 18. Critics complain that 'ludicrous' remarks about the girl's character suggest she was in part to blame. Some are urging the Government to ensure that judges who try sexual offence cases are specially licensed.
The judge told Gambrill, of Southampton, that he would have been jailed but for mitigating circumstances. He said the law protected little girls because they did not know right from wrong but added: 'I have been provided with information which leads me to think she was not entirely an angel.' The judge also said Gambrill 'was only 18 at the time as opposed to being a grown man'. James Hill, Conservative MP for Southampton Test, said the sentence was derisory. 'He is getting off scot-free and there must be a suitable explanation. You cannot blame an eight-year-old child . . . as being the person who starts it. That is too ludicrous.'
Paul Boateng, Labour's legal affairs spokesman, said yesterday: 'The judge really seems to have lost contact with reality. This may be connected with his age. He's over 70, but that is no excuse.'
Judge Starforth Hill is 71.
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