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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Judge criticises rail death villagers
Railway bridge
The children had been playing a game on the bridge
The judge who sentenced a couple found guilty of the manslaughter of their daughter and a friend on a railway bridge has attacked village neighbours over attempts to influence his decisions.

Gareth Edwards and wife Amanda were given a 12-month suspended sentence after the death of Sophie George, seven, and Kymberley Allcock, eight, on a main line near Aberystwyth.


The fact that you had Kymberley and Matthew Allcock as well as your own children on that day increases the seriousness of this offence

Mr Justice Richards, judge
The group of four had been having a picnic next to the line fifteen months ago when the girls were struck by a train - but the couple was spared a jail sentence.

Mr Justice Richards said he had received a letter from villagers in the pair's Tre'r Ddol home calling on him not to give the Edwardses a custodial sentence.

After delivering the sentence at Caernarfon Crown Court, he said efforts to influence him were "wholly inappropriate."

Previous attempts

Some villagers had previously attempted to get the charges against the pair dropped.

In January, before Mr and Mrs Edwards appeared in court on trial over the deaths, they began a letter campaign to have the Crown Prosecution Service drop the charges.

The father of Kymberley Allcock, however, pushed for the court case to go ahead.

Sophie George
Sophie George: Played on railway line
The Allcocks claim they have been driven out of Tre'r Ddol, saying they have been threatened and abuse by local people.

Explaining the sentence, Mr Richards said he had to balance the need for compassion with the feelings of Kymberley's family.

"In relation to both of you a considerable degree of understanding and compassion is called for," he said.

'Grievous loss'

"At the same time I have not forgotten the grievous loss suffered by Kymberley's parents and the consequences of these events for them.

"I well understand their feelings on the matter. The fact that you had Kymberley and Matthew Allcock as well as your own children on that day increases the seriousness of this offence.

Kymberly Allcock
Kymberly Allcock's father is considering a private prosecution
"It is something that must be reflected in the sentence I pass."

Mr Richards said he had considered awarding compensation to the Allcock family over the loss of daughter Kymberley, but said it was "not appropriate at this stage."

Instead, he urged the couple to draw a line under their recent experiences.

He said their surviving children needed their love and support.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Colette Hume
"The judge said they were convicted on the clearest evidence"
The BBC's Wyre Davies
"A tradegy that ruined the lives of many people"
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