Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Gang Rape Pair Appeal Against Verdict

Sydney, AU -- TWO men jailed for their part in the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl during a 2003 Sydney home invasion have appealed against the severity of their sentences.

Steven James Aslett, 20, was sentenced to 24 years with a non-parole period of 17 years after he pleaded guilty to charges of sexual intercourse without consent and aggravated breaking and entering.

He was one of four people who broke into a unit in Newington, in Sydney's west, in July 2003, and tied up the teenage girl's parents, before raping the girl at knifepoint.

Another of the group, a 19-year-old who cannot be named because he was 17 at the time, was jailed for up to five years for his role in the home invasion.

In sentencing the men in December 2004, Justice Michael Finnane said the girl required surgery to her genitalia after the attack, suffering the worst rape injuries he had seen in his 35-year legal career.

Today, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal was told the sentences for Aslett and the teenager were excessive when compared with other sexual assault cases.

"In my written submission I have set out a number of cases where there was a sexual assault associated with killing ... either of the victim of the sexual assault or of someone connected with them," Aslett's lawyer John Stratton told the court.

"The sentence imposed on the appellant is not only greater, but in the range of 10 years greater.

"The message this sends out is offenders are better off killing (their victims).

"This sentence was way out of line."

Mr Stratton also questioned the admissibility of some of the evidence presented in his client's trial, including the reliability of evidence given by witness and co-accused Christopher Bonham.

Bonham, 20, was sentenced to 15 years for the gang rape after pleading guilty and assisting the prosecution.

Mr Stratton said the jury should have been told that Bonham, who had previously conceded to police that parts of a statement he made were untrue, may not be a reliable witness.

"The jury were never told ... that this evidence may be unreliable," Mr Stratton said.

"The direction was only ... to exercise caution, but my submission is that is not far enough."

The youth's lawyer, Helen Cox, said her client had received a "manifestly excessive" sentence, as he did not participate in the rape.

Aslett's mother sat in the court throughout the appeal hearing, and called out to her son as he was led out of the court.pe"Love you baby, love you lots," she said.

The Appeal Court judges, Chief Justice James Spigelman, Justice Graham Barr, and Justice Roderick Howie, have reserved their judgment.


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