A local newspaper has been praised by the Attorney General for its role in helping to get weak sentences handed to two child rapists doubled.
Ruben Monteiro and Roshane Channer were originally given 40-month jail terms after admitting raping an 11-year-old girl in a block of flats in Luton.
But weekly newspaper Luton on Sunday questioned the ‘unduly lenient’ sentences and the issue was subsequently picked up by several national titles.
Attorney General Dominic Grieve praised its intervention after the Court of Appeal agreed last week to increase the jail terms to seven years.
Mr Grieve said: “I understand Luton on Sunday was the first media outlet to question the length of the sentences in this case and I’m very pleased that it did.
“Papers such as LoS play a vital role in publicising the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme, so people know that there is a way to have apparently unduly lenient sentences examined and, in some cases, increased.
“In my view the original sentences of 40 months was unduly lenient and did not properly reflect the seriousness of these crimes.
“The Court of Appeal agreed and has sent out a strong message in respect of the sentencing of sexual offences committed against a child under the age of 13.
David Tucker, head of Strategy and Development at the NSPCC, added: “We welcome Luton on Sunday’s focus on this case and the fact it has worked hard to bring public attention to these lenient sentences.
“No child can give consent to being sexually assaulted so deterrent sentences are needed, which is why we lobbied the Attorney General in this particularly distressing case.”
Luton on Sunday editor Chris Gill said: “We felt the judge had got this badly wrong and, on this rare occasion, raised the issue with the CPS. It snowballed and most might agree justice has been done.
“At a time when local newspapers are under the cosh, it is heart-warming to know that local publications can make their voice heard and make a difference.”
The original trial judge in the case had said that the victim was a ‘willing participant’ in the sex, even though under-13s legally cannot give consent.
Channer, of no fixed address, and Monteiro, of Luton, will be on the sex offenders register for life.