June 2009

Child abuser’s sentence is cut

A abuser, jailed for indecently assaulting two young girls more than 20 years ago, has had his prison sentence almost halved.

Michael Prior, (65) of Albion Street, Lynn, now faces a prison term of just two years, instead of the three-and-a-half years sentence imposed at Norwich Crown Court in January.

The hard-of-hearing asthma sufferer had denied offences of indecent assault and indecency with a child, committed against girls under the age of ten, but was convicted by a jury.

On Friday Mr Justice Collins told the Court of Appeal that Prior’s offending had happened many years earlier and so he should have been sentenced under the less-tough sentencing rules of the time.

He had offended against one young girl by putting her hand on his crotch, on one occasion when he was naked, while he put another girl’s hand on his genitals.

Although one of the girls reported the incident, Prior was able to continue living at liberty for many years because police did not have enough evidence to prosecute him.

When all of the offences eventually came to light, he denied any responsibility, but was convicted by a crown court jury.

Jailing him in January, Judge Simon Barham said: “The girls suffered significant long-term effects and a severe sentence is called for.”

But his lawyers last week argued the sentence imposed was too high and asked Mr Justice Collins, sitting with Mr Justice Irwin, to grant him a reduction.

The judge said: “It is important to bear in mind this was a trial and the trial judge saw the witnesses and was able to see from their evidence the effect the offending had upon them.

“But he had to be dealt with on the basis of sentencing practice at the time he committed the offences and not when he was eventually brought to justice.

“Of course, in relation to a man of good character, such as this appellant, having regard to his physical disabilities and his age, it can be expected that prison will bear more harshly on him, and there is, of course, the element of imprisonment itself being a harsh penalty.

“Nonetheless, the offending conduct had a very damaging effect upon both of the unfortunate young victims. Having regard to the maximum sentences which were available under the legislation which was in force at the time, we take the view that the appropriate levels of sentences would be one of 12 months’ imprisonment, on the offences against each of the victims.

“The total sentence would, therefore, be one of two years’ imprisonment and, to that extent, this appeal is allowed.”