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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 June 2007, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Anger at 'lenient' rape sentence
Lord Goldsmith
The Attorney General will review the decision
Children's charities have reacted with anger after a window cleaner who raped a girl of 10 was jailed for two years.

Keith Fenn, 24, will be free in four months after a judge said the girl, who was assaulted in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, had appeared older.

The charity Kidscape accused Judge Julian Hall of "trying to find excuses" and said a child must never be blamed.

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith is to decide whether the sentence should be appealed against as "unduly lenient".

Moral dilemma

Oxford Crown Court heard that Fenn raped the girl in a park on 14 October, before an accomplice, Darren Wright, 34, took her home and sexually assaulted her.

Judge Hall said in sentencing he faced a moral dilemma as the fact they had sex within 45 minutes of meeting was an absolute crime.

But he said the girl had dressed provocatively and looked as though she was 16.

Lawyers for the defendants stressed that the sex had been consensual, and was only termed 'rape' because of the framework of law.

They said the judge stated that doctors who examined the girl believed she was in her mid-teens and she was treated by most people as older than her actual age.

The judge gave Fenn concurrent two-year and 18-month sentences, but he will be free in eight weeks after serving eight months in prison awaiting sentence.

Wright is already free as Judge Hall had already given him a nine-month sentence for inciting the girl to perform a sex act.

'Back to the 1950s'

Dr Michele Elliott, director of Kidscape, said the decision had left her "lost for words".

She said: "It takes us back to the 1950s when the victim was blamed if they were dressed provocatively.

"No-one in my opinion could mistake a 10-year-old child, even dressed up, for a 16-year-old. They are just trying very hard to find excuses.

"You can never blame a child victim for sexual abuse when excusing the abuser of any kind of abuse."

The NSPCC added: "There is no excuse for having sex with a 10-year-old, no matter how she dresses."

Case papers

Boris Johnson, the MP for Henley where the rape happened, said the judge's decision was "inexplicable".

He said: "Whatever she was wearing, there are no extenuating circumstances that can mitigate the rape of a 10-year-old girl.

"This is unbelievable. The more I hear about it, the more unbelievable I find it."

A spokesman for the Judicial Communications Office said Judge Hall would not comment further on what happened in court.

The judge was in the headlines in February when he said compensation to a child sex abuse victim could be used to buy a bicycle to cheer her up.

A spokesman for Lord Goldsmith said he had asked the Crown Prosecution Service to send him the papers on the case, and would consider whether or not to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal as "unduly lenient".

He has 28 days to make a decision.

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