London

Boys' attempted rape conviction appeals rejected

Two boys who were found guilty of the attempted rape of an eight-year-old girl in west London have lost their appeals against their convictions.

Three Court of Appeal judges in London dismissed the appeals brought by the pair, who are both now 11.

The boys were cleared of rape but found guilty of attempted rape at the Old Bailey on 24 May.

The boys had denied assaulting the girl and their lawyers claimed they were just being naughty or playing a game.

The Old Bailey trial heard the girl was attacked close to her home last October.

Judges 'dismayed'

The boys were each found guilty of two charges of attempted rape but both were cleared of two alternative offences of rape.

Lord Justice Hughes said: "We should say that, like the judge, we have found this a painful case to consider and a difficult one in which to apply the rules of law which we are obliged to apply.

"We are, however, satisfied that the judge was right and entitled to come to the conclusion that he did."

The Appeal Court upheld the trial judge's decision to let the jury decide if the girl was a reliable witness, but the court said it was "dismayed" that the case had been heard at the crown court and not at a youth court.

Lord Justice Hughes added that the court was concerned about the effect of the trial on the young victim.

He said the court could not leave the case "without recording our dismay that it became necessary for two 10-year-olds and an eight-year-old, all with impeccable upbringings, to be the key participants in a trial before the crown court".

"We are particularly concerned about the effect of a publicly staged trial in this arena on the ability of a little girl to move on with her life with the minimum adverse impact," he added.

Questions raised

Earlier Chetna Patel, representing one of the boys, submitted to Lord Justice Hughes, Mrs Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Maddison that the trial judge "erred in rejecting the submission of no case to answer".

She said: "The main ground of appeal is that the case should have been withdrawn from the jury following half-time submissions made by both defendants."

Following the verdicts questions were raised about the way children are dealt with by the criminal justice system.

The NSPCC also raised concerns that the eight-year-old victim was too young to cope with cross-examination.

The boys will be sentenced on 16 August.

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