Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 15:30 UK

Rapist's sentence changed to life

Craig Bennett
Bennett tied his victim up and choked him with a belt

A paedophile who left a 12-year-old boy for dead after a violent rape has been given a life sentence after an appeal.

Craig Bennett was handed an indefinite term of imprisonment after being found guilty of raping the boy at the scene of one of his previous attacks.

But the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, quashed the sentence, imposing a life term on the 45-year-old from Darwen.

Despite the new sentence, the minimum term Bennett must serve before he can apply for parole remains 10 years.

The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, appealed against the original sentence arguing it was "unduly lenient".

Bennett, of Stuart Close, Darwen, was sentenced to an indefinite term of imprisonment for public protection (IPP) at Preston Crown Court in April.

He had lured his victim to a field within a wooded area of the town, threatened to kill him, tied him up and choked him with a belt.

'Dangerous predator'

The boy was left unconscious and, thinking that he had killed him, Bennett left him for dead.

Bennett already had convictions for indecently assaulting two boys, aged 11 and 16, in separate attacks in 1990 and 1991.

And in 1993 he was convicted of raping a 13-year-old boy at the same spot.

Lord Judge described him as a "dangerous predatory paedophile" who had committed "dreadful" offences against his latest victim.

The judge said his victim had been "subjected to potentially lethal violence in the form of strangulation".

"The offender committed this offence in a place which he had used previously for a virtually identical crime," he said.

"His previous record demonstrated not merely a total failure to respond to previous sentences, but that he was a merciless offender whose serious sexual crimes were escalating in seriousness.

"On this occasion the boy's survival was a matter of good fortune."

In Bennett's case, the judge said, the gravity of the crimes justified an order of imprisonment for life.

Where a case "is plainly so serious that a sentence of life imprisonment is indeed required, then it is in our judgment unduly lenient for any lesser sentence, including an IPP, to be imposed", he added.

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