Thursday, July 14, 2011

Jailed footballers freed as British judges in rape appeal say girls of 12 wanted sex

Six footballers jailed for their part in a midnight orgy in a park with two 12-year-old girls were freed yesterday after a court ruled their victims ‘wanted sex’.

The men – several of them former members of Reading FC’s academy – were locked up for two years after admitting various counts of rape four months ago. But they were released by Appeal Court judges who ruled their victims ‘wanted to have sex’ and ‘it is what young people do’.

Both girls had told the men they were 16 and had put fake ages on their Facebook accounts.

Yesterday, in a ruling which freed the men, Lord Justice Moses said: ‘If you have casual sex with someone you don’t know, you run the risk of having sex with someone who is under age.’

The comments provoked outrage from a rape campaigner who said she was absolutely disgusted by the decision. Jill Saward, who was raped at her father’s Ealing vicarage 25 years ago, said the girls were extremely vulnerable.

A panel of judges agreed with their lawyers that their sentences should be suspended and released the men from prison immediately.

Ashley Charles, 20, Courtney Amos, 20, Jahvon Edwards, 19, Dennis de Sousa, 19, Luke Farrugia, 21, and Jahson Downes, 20, were jailed for two years in March after admitting rape.

The six promising young footballers picked up the two girls and drove in two Vauxhall Corsa cars to a recreation ground in Reading in February last year. One of the 12-year-olds, described as more sexually experienced, was raped by five of the men and the other girl was raped by one.

The girls told the men they were 16, had dressed to look older and put fake ages on their Facebook accounts. They sneaked away from a party to be with them after exchanging suggestive text messages in which one girl said she wanted to have sex with more than one of the men.

When the girls were reported missing by one of their mothers, police found them wandering in the street at 2.20am. An appeal was launched to find those involved and soon all six had handed themselves in and made full confessions. They were said to have been shocked and disgusted to learn the true ages of the girls, with one stating: ‘I’ve got a little sister about that age.’

Lawyers for the six men told the Appeal Court that the trial judge did not take enough account of the fact the men believed the girls were 16 and that they gave full confessions. Lord Justice Moses, who sat with two other judges, said the sentences were excessive in a ‘difficult’ case. He added: ‘We do not believe it was right to impose immediate detention. The girls wanted to have sex and they had pretty miserable, fleeting, sex in a freezing cold park.

‘It is what young people do, but they are not allowed to do it until they are 16. The law is there to protect them.’

Miss Saward, who once stood against Tory MP David Davis in a by-election, added: ‘The law is there to stop cases such as this. They aren’t even old enough to have Facebook accounts, and using the belief that by having Facebook they are old enough is a disgrace. ‘If there is any doubt men should say no.

‘It is also quite disgusting to think that inexperienced men think that young girls would want to have sex with multiple partners.’

Barrister Felicity Gerry, an expert on sexual offences, said the men were duped, have served time in custody and now have criminal records.

She said: ‘The courts recognise the difference between rape of a child in these circumstances and rape without consent where a perpetrator knows his victim is under age.’

The men’s sentences were cut to one-year jail terms, suspended for a year, during which they will remain under supervision of probation officers.

‘The judges have set a highly dangerous precedent by suggesting that raping vulnerable children is not punishable by the severest sentencing,’ she added.

Relatives of the men celebrated by cheering and hugging each other as the decision was announced at London’s Criminal Appeal Court yesterday.

Judges heard the six had no previous convictions and were all of 'positive good character' before their rendezvous in the park.

Lawyers acting for the men urged them to consider suspending the sentences, claiming the two-year jail terms were 'too long'. They argued the crown court judge in Reading had not taken sufficient account of the fact the men believed the girls were 16 or that they all gave full confessions.

Their legal teams claimed prosecutors would not have had a case if the men had not confessed because the first girl's testimony was unreliable while the second did not mention any sexual activity with Amos in her statement to police.

Announcing his ruling, Lord Justice Moses said the men and their families had suffered as a result of their jail terms when it had been their own 'frank confessions' that landed them in court.

Their sentences were cut to one-year jail terms, suspended for a year, during which they will remain under probation service supervision.

Original report here

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