• Saturday, December 02, 2023

UK News

Zara Aleena’s aunt calls for law change after killer wins appeal

By: Pramod Thomas

ZARA ALEENA’s aunt is advocating for legal reform following her niece’s killer succeeding in his appeal to decrease the minimum term of his life sentence.

Farah Naz said that the court order conveys a signal to women that ‘their pain will not be considered’.

Jordan McSweeney, the man who stalked and killed Aleena, successfully obtained a Court of Appeal’s decision to lessen his 38-year minimum sentence to 33 years on Friday (3).

“Even though the ruling appears to align with an established sentencing framework, there are questions that arise for us,” Naz told BBC Breakfast.

She even questioned the reason behind the appeal judges’ overriding the decision given by the initial trial judge, who had been engaged in the case for more than six months.

Naz expressed doubts about the narrative that suggested McSweeney was seeking a consensual sexual encounter, calling it absurd.

She indicated that his intent was to find an opportunity for his sadistic expression, a critical aspect that the judges have now excluded from consideration.

“McSweeney had spat in the face of the law by his refusal to participate in the original legal proceedings. He gets the law to stand up for him and exercise his right. Surely somebody who has such a disdain for the law should not be given that right,” she was quoted as saying.

McSweeney, 30, had admitted to the murder and sexual assault of Aleena, a 35-year-old law graduate, on June 26, 2022, as she walked home in Ilford, east London.

The Court of Appeal reduced McSweeney’s sentence, deeming the original term as “manifestly excessive.” The judges argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to support additional suffering beyond rendering Aleena unconscious and that the attack was not necessarily premeditated, despite it being a ‘culmination of hours of planning’.

George Carter-Stephenson KC, McSweeney’s barrister, contended that Justice Cheema-Grubb, the sentencing judge, inaccurately included the “aggravating elements” in the case.

Oliver Glasgow KC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, disputed the notion that McSweeney did not plan to kill Aleena.

According to Glasgow, suggesting that the intent to murder Aleena was an impromptu decision contradicts the attacker’s actions leading up to the violent act.

He emphasised that the sexual assault on Aleena was the result of extensive planning and premeditation.

“Aleena’s family has endured so much since Zara was brutally taken from them. Having refused to attend his original sentencing hearing, and then storming out of his own appeal, this reduction in his sentence will no doubt impact the family’s sense of justice,” London’s victims’ commissioner, Claire Waxman, was quoted as saying.

“This case has made it all the more crucial that government moves forwards with its proposals to compel offenders to attend their sentencing, or face up to an additional two years if they refuse to do so.”

While commenting on the verdict, Justice secretary, Alex Chalk, emphasised the need for reforms to ensure that offenders like McSweeney remain incarcerated.

He proposed life imprisonment for murderers with sexual conduct, unless under exceptional circumstances, to prevent the possibility of their release.

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