Evil beasts | 

Prosecutors to fight ‘unduly lenient’ sentences handed to sick duo who raped girl (12)

There was widespread fury when Gerard McKenna and Paul Sheridan received terms totalling just over 15 years

Paul Sheridan (L) and Gerard McKenna.

Paul Sheridan

Gerard McKenna

Lagan towpath

Sharon O'NeillSunday Life

The sentences handed down to two evil beasts for the rape and abduction of a 12-year-old girl are set to be appealed after being deemed “unduly lenient”.

There was widespread fury when Gerard McKenna and Paul Sheridan received terms totalling just over 15 years.

But we can reveal that prosecutors have now intervened and the case is heading to the Court of Appeal — with the two brutes facing the prospect of being banged up for longer.

It was recently disclosed that the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) was looking at its legal options, and now a decision has been made to challenge the original sentence.

Gerard McKenna

“While sentencing is a matter for the judiciary, the Director of Public Prosecutions does have the power to refer particular sentences to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they may be unduly lenient,’’ said a PPS spokesperson.

“An unduly lenient sentence is one that falls outside the range of sentences that a judge, taking into consideration all relevant factors and having regard to sentencing guidance, could reasonably impose.

“After careful consideration of the sentences handed down in the cases of Gerard McKenna and Paul Sheridan, we have determined that there is sufficient basis to refer the sentences to the Court of Appeal and have lodged the relevant application.”

The pair were sentenced last month for the abduction and rape of the schoolgirl and the sexual assault of her 15-year-old friend at one of Northern Ireland’s best-known beauty spots.

Paul Sheridan

Gerard McKenna was handed a nine-year sentence while his co-accused Paul Sheridan was given six-and-a-half years.

Sheridan (25), from Hillfoot Crescent in Ballynahinch, had already pleaded guilty to rape, sexual assault and child abduction.

McKenna protested his innocence and stood trial but was unanimously convicted of raping the 12-year-old and sexually assaulting her pal.

Their sick crimes were carried out on the Lagan Towpath in Lisburn, just days before Christmas in 2019. Their vulnerable victims were plied with drink and drugs before being attacked.

At sentencing, the trauma of what happened to them was laid bare when the 12-year-old’s victim impact statement was read out by the judge.

“He [McKenna] forced me to view the world as a dangerous place, filled with people who can hurt me like he did. What did I do to deserve this?’’ she asked.

“No one has the right to do to me what he did. I was excited for Christmas, not knowing the nightmare that was to be my life.”

Lagan towpath

The police described the child rapists, who have also 70 previous convictions between them, as “very dangerous men”.

The latest development was welcomed by those who expressed dismay at the original sentence.

“I wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron on October 14, asking that he review the sentences of Gerald McKenna and Paul Sheridan, with a hope that in the future we do not give rapists of children a lesser sentence for pleading guilty,’’ said Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie.

“I am pleased to hear he has now submitted an unduly lenient sentence referral.

“This was a harrowing case of rape, which has left the victims with lasting psychological damage.

“While no sentence can repair the harm caused by these two men, I welcome the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision and hope that they receive a sentence which better reflects the offending that has taken place.”

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