A sexual predator who stalked and murdered law graduate Zara Aleena has won an appeal to reduce the minimum sentence from her life sentence.
Jordan McSweeney, 29, stalked at least five women before targeting 35-year-old woman Ms. Aleena in Ilford, east London, as she walked home after spending a night out with friends in the early hours of June 26 last year.
McSweeney dragged her down an alley before brutally kicking and stomping on her.
He then sexually assaulted Ms Aleena and left her for dead during an attack which lasted nine minutes and left her with 46 separate injuries, leading to her death after she was rushed to hospital.
McSweeney, who refused to attend his sentencing hearing, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum sentence of 38 years in December at the Old Bailey after admitting the murder and sexual assault of Ms Aleena.
In a judgment delivered on Friday, three judges at the Court of Appeal in London found that the sentencing judge had imposed too high an “increase” in the minimum sentence, replacing it with a prison term of perpetuity with a minimum duration of 33 years.
Chief Justice Lady Carr said: “Having rightly concluded that Ms Aleena must have lost consciousness at an early stage of the attack, the judge did not have sufficient evidence to be sure that there had been any suffering. additional mental or physical. such as to justify an increase in the starting point of 30 years.
Ms Aleena’s family said in a statement released by her aunt, Farah Naz, that the decision sends a “discouraging” message to women.
“Today’s decision, a decision to reduce the minimum sentence for this disgusting man, aligns with an established legal framework for sentencing, a framework that we understand,” they said.
“Yet the message he sends to women is disheartening, suggesting that a ‘life sentence’ doesn’t really mean a life behind bars. It is, in all honesty, a superficial triumph for him.”
Describing Ms Aleena as a “beacon of hope”, they said her killing “is a catalyst for reshaping the way society protects women” and pledged to “champion more robust measures to protect women”.
“As a result of this decision, we choose to relegate this man to obscurity, hoping that society will forget him as a meaningless and despicable individual. Our attention now turns elsewhere,” they said .
“Together we can make a difference in the lives of women and in the fight against the darkness that threatens their safety.”
McSweeney appeared at his appeal hearing last month via video link from Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire.
His lawyer, George Carter-Stephenson KC, said it was “accepted that the attack and murder in this case was particularly savage and brutal”.
But, he added, even if the crime had a “sexual motive,” the killing was not premeditated.
“The attack was an opportunistic act rather than something that was planned in advance, although there was clearly a sexual relationship in mind,” he said.
“He was considering seeking a sexual relationship, with or without consent.”
Oliver Glasgow KC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, told the court McSweeney spent two hours stalking the women before focusing on Ms Aleena.
“The sexual assault of Ms. Aleena was the culmination of hours of planning and premeditation,” he said in his written submissions.
Ms Aleena’s murder has sparked more calls to end violence against women and girls.
McSweeney was known to police as a serial offender and had 28 previous convictions for 69 offenses including burglary and assault.
He was released from prison just nine days before the murder, and during that time his driver’s license was revoked because he failed to attend any meetings with probation officers.
An overwhelming the report found a catalog of errors in the Probation Service’s handling of McSweeney, which meant he was not treated as a high-risk offender and was “free” to commit this “most heinous crime”.