THE government’s top lawyer says sentences given to three members of an international paedophile ring that was based in Portsmouth were ‘unduly lenient’, The News can reveal.
Ringleader Robert Hathaway, 37, of Tyseley Road, Somers Town, was given an indeterminate sentence with a minimum of 12 years at Portsmouth Crown Court in December while his partner Melissa Noon, 30, received four years.
Noon will only serve half the sentence, and as she had already spent 374 days on remand she is due to get out later this year.
The maximum sentence for her offences was 14 years, while Hathaway will be eligible for release after six years.
Hathaway could have been given a life sentence.
The third – Simon Hilton, 29, of Wolsey Road, Islington, north London, who was also facing a maximum of 14 years – was jailed for four years with an extended licence period of six years.
Privately, police officers involved in the investigation have expressed disappointment at the sentences.
The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Crown Prosecution Service asked the Attorney General to look at appealing the sentences for being too short.
Bernadette Caffarey, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said: ‘I can confirm that the Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP has applied for permission to refer the sentences of the above offenders to the Court of Appeal under the unduly lenient sentence scheme.’
Under that scheme the Attorney General has the power to ask the Court of Appeal to review sentences which he thinks are ‘unduly lenient’ – so light that a judge could not reasonably have handed it down.
Permission for a full deliberation by the Court of Appeal must be given by a panel of three judges from that court.
If they agree to a review, and the court subsequently agrees with the Attorney General’s protest, it can increase the sentences.
The CPS declined to comment on the Attorney General’s decision.
Hampshire Constabulary spokesman Tim Feltham said: ‘We await the decision from the Court of Appeal hearing.
‘It is not appropriate for us to comment further at this time.’
Five others have been sentenced in relation to the case.
They are Lee Parson, 38, of Arundel Street, Landport, who was jailed for three years; Stephen Fraser, 42, of Hemingford Road, Cambridge, who was sentenced to four years with an extended licence period of six years; John Maddox, 47, of Ellis Avenue, Rainham, Essex, who was jailed for two-and-a-half years; Mark Day, 45, of Whitefriars Meadow, Sandwich, Kent, who received three years and Daniel Bell, 27, previously of St James Road, Emsworth, who was given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.
Maddox, Day and Bell were sentenced later than the other defendants. The time limit for the Attorney General to refer their cases has not yet passed.
CASE OF CRUELTY
THE case was described as the worst of its kind by senior Hampshire detectives.
The investigation stretched as far as Australia, America, Japan and seven European countries, involving 35 suspects.
The evidence in the case included more than 14,000 indecent images of children and 300 films of children being abused.
Police examined 45 phones, 113 computers and laptops as well as hundreds of DVDs and CDs.
From their flat in Tyseley Road, Somers Town, Portsmouth, Robert Hathaway and Melissa Noon controlled an international paedophile ring that exploited children for the sexual gratification of adults.
Hathaway, a cold and determined man, controlled his younger partner and persuaded her to join him in abusing two young children. The couple set up a website and encouraged other people to come to Portsmouth to do the same, sharing films and photos of the abuse around the world online.
Sentencing them Judge Roger Hetherington said: ‘This is a case about cruelty to two children.
‘Physical cruelty in the sense that each child was subjected to physical acts which had no place in ordinary childhood development but almost more important was the mental cruelty.’
Hathaway pleaded guilty to 45 offences including the rape of a child.
Noon was sentenced for 13 offences including sexual assault of a child.
Hilton was jailed for 14 offences including arranging a child sex offence.