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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 18:23 GMT
Whiting detective attacks sentence
Roy Whiting
Roy Whiting was jailed for previous abduction
The detective who arrested Roy Whiting for attacking a little girl five years before he killed Sarah Payne has criticised the judge who sentenced him to four years in jail.

Detective Constable John Smee said Judge John Gower failed to properly protect the public after hearing how Whiting kidnapped, threatened and assaulted the nine-year-old.

Mr Smee told the BBC that police and lawyers had expected him to get seven years at the June 1995 trial, which also heard how he had attempted to abduct two of the girl's friends.

Mr Gower, now retired, said it was a "perfectly proper, right and just sentence" about which he had no regrets.


He was an experienced judge and you have to look at all of the circumstances and decide what is the appropriate sentence

John Smee
Sarah Payne's parents Michael and Sara said they did not blame Mr Gower for the sentence handed to Whiting, now serving life for their daughter's murder.

But they criticised the decision to release him after two-and-a-half years and said paedophiles should not be released until there was no risk of re-offending.

Mr Smee said he accepted Mr Gower's argument that people cannot be convicted for offences they might commit in the future and that there was no evidence Whiting had planned the attack.

But he added: "He was an experienced judge and you have to look at all of the circumstances and decide what is the appropriate sentence, not just to punish the offender but to protect the public.

Judge John Gower
Judge John Gower says sentencing may be heavier now
"And by sentencing him to four years, protection for the public is very light, because obviously somebody would be released very shortly, having received that kind of sentence."

Mr Gower said: "I don't like [people referring to it as] 'just' four years. I sentenced him within the established sentencing parameters at that time."

Sarah's parents said Whiting should have been kept in prison longer because a psychiatrist's report at the time of the first case Whiting said there was a risk of him re-offending.

But they told the BBC that they did not attach any blame to Mr Gower.


People like Whiting are never going to change

Sara Payne

The couple reiterated their calls for offenders to be kept in prison until it was proven they were safe.

Mrs Payne told GMTV: "That is what we want more than anything. We are after people like Roy Whiting that are the most serious predatory people.

"This is what they live for. This is their entire life, living to grab children. People like Whiting are never going to change."

Knife-point kidnap

At Whiting's earlier trial, also at Lewes Crown Court, the jury heard how Whiting attempted to abduct the three girls.

He succeeded in pulling one nine-year-old girl into his car, told her he had a knife, and threatened to tie her up unless she submitted to the assault.

The judge accepted submissions by Whiting's lawyer that the attack was spontaneous and not something he had planned.

Sarah Payne
Sarah Payne was not the first girl abducted by Roy Whiting
Whiting could have received up to 20 years for the first kidnap and assault he committed.

Judge Gower - who has four young grandchildren of his own - told of his sadness when he learnt of the Payne's tragedy.

He said: "When I first heard of Sarah's disappearance... not knowing that I had any connection at all with the man who it turned out had murdered her, I was distressed and I grieved as I always do in these circumstances.

He added: "The only message that I can give to Sarah's parents is that I grieve for their great tragedy."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Niall Dickson
"Sarah's parents...blame the system rather than the judge"
Detective Constable John Smee
"I believe he did plan it"
Judge John Gower
"I passed a just and proper sentence"
Full coverage of the trial

The verdict

Catching a murderer

Protecting children

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


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