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Last Updated: Monday, 10 July 2006, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Paedophile sentence will remain
Craig Sweeney
Craig Sweeney sexually abused and kidnapped a young girl
Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has decided not to challenge the minimum sentence of a man who sexually abused a three-year-old girl.

Paedophile Craig Sweeney, 24, was sentenced to life but can apply for parole after five years and 108 days.

Lord Goldsmith will not ask the Court of Appeal to review the sentence because he has concluded it is not "unduly lenient".

The mother of the girl said she was "gut-wrenchingly sick" at the decison.

She added: "If the likes of him, who pose such a high risk to children, are let out too soon again, this will happen again and again. When it does, the politicians and everyone else involved here - will also have blood on their hands."

'Views stand'

Home Secretary John Reid had asked Lord Goldsmith to re-examine the "unduly lenient" sentence.

On Monday, a Home Office spokesman said Mr Reid "stood by his views".

"He is committed to protecting the public from violent and sexual offenders and remains concerned about sentencing arrangements," he said.

The legal system no longer protects the people who pay for it, and who's obedience, sustains it.
Billy Bob

"That is a concern which is shared by his colleagues, including the attorney general, and they intend to make the necessary changes by reviewing the system."

Both the home secretary and attorney general are understood to hope the Sentencing Guidelines Council will change its guidelines to allow judges discretion when defendants admit an offence early, our correspondent says.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson
I'm told John Reid still believes the sentence was too lenient
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

Currently the guidelines state sentences should be reduced by a third in such cases.

It is understood Lord Goldsmith does not deem Sweeney's sentence to be unduly lenient because the trial judge correctly followed guidelines and legislation in calculating his minimum term.

The original sentence, handed down at Cardiff Crown Court, caused friction between the government and the judiciary after Mr Reid's intervention.

There were subsequent reports that Lord Goldsmith was angered by the intervention as he feared it could jeopardise his chances of appealing against the sentence.

But the family of the victim supported the home secretary and called on the government and judiciary to make sure such crimes were "properly punished".

They said they hoped the intervention would lead to "a significant increase in the sentence" and that it would serve as "a benchmark for punishing the perpetrators of these horrific crimes in the future".

Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, later intervened by warning ministers not to criticise individual judges.

Released early

He said the source of problems was the way the sentencing framework had developed, rather than its implementation by the judiciary.

Sweeney - who was known to the family - had snatched the girl from her home after she had returned home from a shopping trip and while her mother made a telephone call.

Rumney area of Cardiff
Sweeney snatched the child from the Rumney area of Cardiff

He drove her to his Newport flat where he was living after being released early from a three-year sentence for indecently assaulting a girl aged six. There she was sexually assaulted.

She was only found by police hours later in Wiltshire, after a car chase prompted by Sweeney having no lights on his car and jumping red lights.

He was driving erratically at speeds of up to 100mph with the girl in the car.

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith explains his decision

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