January 2012

Family living in fear as convicted paedophile Craig Sweeney could be back on the streets in a year

Paedophile Craig Sweeney has had his bid for parole rebuffed – but could still be back on the streets within a year, it has been revealed.

The father of Sweeney’s victim, a three-year-old girl he abducted and abused, said the family was living in fear.

Sweeney’s bid for release in February this year has been blocked by the probation service, which told him he must stay behind bars.

But the Ministry of Justice confirmed cases could be “reviewed again within one or two years”.

The 40-year-old father of his young victim said: “It is just a delay.

“At some point he will get out. It’s just a case of when. It’s just a waiting game.”

Pervert Sweeney was jailed in 2006 for attacking his three-year-old victim after kidnapping her from her Cardiff home.

He drove her to his Newport flat before sexually abusing her.

He was living there after being released early from a three-year sentence for indecently assaulting a six-year-old girl. His early release licence had expired just two days before.

The victim’s father cannot be identified for legal reasons.

“It was almost six years ago. Another year is not going to take very long,” he said.

“This was the first time he had applied for parole.

“Come February he will have done his five years and 108 days – that was the sentence, the minimum tariff.

“It’s amazing what a life sentence is.”

There was a UK-wide outcry in 2006 when it emerged Sweeney could be freed within six years.

“We knew it was going to be 2012 he was eligible.

“We had a phone call telling us he was applying and then we had a letter explaining what was what.

“Six years have flown by and so will another year.

“When he gets out just depends on how often they want to keep turning him down.

“It’s just a matter of time before he uses human rights legislation. Everyone does at some point.

“That is what this country’s legal system appears to consist of nowadays.

“I’ve got no faith in the justice system whatsoever.”

He claimed criminal offenders were able to get access to “more help than anyone else”, and added: “They go into jail and they get all the services possible.

“They don’t have to worry about dentist’s lists, they don’t have to worry about anything really.

“If they want to have an education or go to college they can do it. And everything is paid for if they have got health issues.

“We struggled to find proper counselling but they get what they want in there.”

He said things were “getting better” with his daughter, now aged nine; the youngster was left harbouring revenge fantasies after the attack.

Her father said: “Some days you have down days and some days it feels like it happened yesterday.

Describing her as a “wonderful” daughter, he added she still suffered nightmares, although these were lessening.

“But she still gets them,” he said.

“There are also issues with driving. Like when you drive late at night in lanes with no lights in.

“And she looks at the speedometer when you are on the motorway.

“It makes you wonder what is going through her head. She goes quiet, but does say she doesn’t like it.”

Sweeney was living in a bail hostel in Newport when he abducted the toddler from her home while her mother was on the phone. He was caught by chance by traffic cops 80 miles away in Swindon.

The girl’s father has told police he would “go for him” if he ever saw Sweeney on the street.

June 2006

Child sex snatch jailing ‘insult’

The family of a child kidnapped by a convicted paedophile on early release has said his sentence is “an insult”.

Craig Sweeney, 24, kidnapped a girl, aged three, from her home in Cardiff in January 2006 before attacking her.

He was jailed for life and told he should not be considered for parole for at least five years.

The home secretary is to write to the attorney general to ask him to consider referring the sentence to the Court of Appeal as “unduly lenient”.

His victim’s family said it was angry with this punishment.

Anne Tyson, solicitor representing the victim’s family, said: “The family believes today’s sentence is an insult to their three-year-old daughter and that there are grave failings in the criminal justice system that need to be urgently addressed.”

Relatives are calling for a government review of sentencing guidelines for crimes of this nature and to increase sentences given to paedophiles.

Sweeney – who was known to the family – had snatched the girl from her home after she had returned home from a shopping trip and while her mother made a telephone call.

He drove her to his Newport flat where he was living after being released early from a three-year sentence for indecently assaulting a girl aged six.

The licence on which he had been granted early release from a jail term for indecently assaulting a six-year-old girl, had expired two days before.

Sentencing him to life in jail at Cardiff Crown Court, Judge John Griffith Williams QC said he would not be considered for parole for five years – and only then if he did not pose a significant risk of re-offending.

“You have shown yourself to be a thoroughly devious man. You kidnapped this little girl for your own sexual gratification,” he said.

“You subjected her to an extremely painful ordeal. It beggars belief.

“This little girl has changed from a talkative and bubbly little girl into a distant, moody and depressed child.

“Her mother has said it has been worse than a death in the family. She will never get over it.”

The court heard in April how the child was snatched from her house in Rumney, Cardiff on the evening of 2 January.

She was driven away to Sweeney’s flat in Newport where she was sexually attacked.

She was only found by police hours later in Wiltshire, after a car chase prompted by Sweeney having no lights on his car and jumping red lights.

He drove erratically at speeds of up to 100mph with the girl in the car.

Susan Ferrier, prosecuting, has said he travelled mainly on the wrong side of the road and at one point sped straight at an articulated lorry before swerving away at the last minute.

He then saw a police helicopter above him swerved violently down a bank.

Sweeney was arrested at the roadside of the A4 near Marlborough, and police then noticed the girl was lying at the side of the road where he had hurled her from the car.

Ms Ferrier said of the girl: “She was asking ‘is the nasty man gone?'”

The toddler suffered minor injuries as a result of being thrown from the car but needed hospital treatment for other “significant” injuries inflicted by Sweeney.

‘Depravity’

Sweeney admitted four charges of kidnap, three of sexual assault and one of dangerous driving.

His defence counsel said he had “shown remorse when arrested and was distressed at the depravity at what he had done”.

Sweeney kept his head bowed throughout most of the sentencing hearing on Monday and showed no emotion.