England

Paedophiles, 101 and 96, lose sentence appeals

Ralph Clarke Image copyright Joe Giddens
Image caption Ralph Clarke was jailed in December for 30 historical sex offences

Two paedophiles aged 101 and 96 have lost their appeals against sentences which they claimed were excessive because of their extreme old age.

Ralph Clarke, 101, from Birmingham, was jailed for 13 years in December. Peter Cooper, 96, of Minehead, Somerset, got three years in February.

They argued old people should get special consideration at sentencing as a different class of offender.

But judges disagreed, saying sentencing must be done on a case-by-case basis.

Clarke, a former haulier from Erdington, is thought to be the oldest person convicted in British legal history. He was jailed for committing 30 child sex offences between 1974 and 1983.

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Retired GP Peter Cooper was imprisoned for historical sex offences against a girl which began when she was six years old.

At the Court of Appeal, their lawyers argued the sentence passed should be one where it could be reasonably expected that the offender will serve the required custodial period.

'Relatively sprightly'

If this was not the case, the jail term was more like a life sentence when the offender had not been sentenced in that way.

They wanted the court to treat old people as if they were terminally ill and suggested they were seen as a special class of offender - like those under 18 and the mentally disordered - who are subject to special consideration at sentencing.

Refusing their appeals, five judges, led by Lady Justice Hallett, said working on a case-by-case basis would continue.

"Whilst we consider that an offender's diminished life expectancy, his age, health and the prospect of dying in prison are factors legitimately to be taken into account in passing sentence, they have to be balanced against the gravity of the offending - including the harm done to victims - and the public interest in setting appropriate punishment for very serious crimes."

The sentences of "relatively sprightly" Clarke and Cooper were not excessive, the judges ruled.

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