A PENSIONER who abused two young girls has been jailed after top judges ruled that his original sentence was too soft.
Dennis Barnes, of Gardner Close, was originally handed a 12-month suspended sentence at Lewes Crown Court, after admitting indecent assault and sexual assault in June.
But, after his case was referred to the Criminal Appeal Court, in London, by the Solicitor General, Edward Garnier QC, three of the country’s most senior judges said the sentence was ‘unduly lenient’.
The 82-year-old, who uses a stick to walk, sat in the public gallery with his belongings in a carrier bag, as he was told to go to the court’s cells to begin a six-month jail term.
Lord Justice Hughes, sitting with Mr Justice Cranston and Mr Justice Hickinbottom, told the court that Barnes molested the girls when they were about 10-years-old.
The abuse came to light when one of the girls became upset at school and reported what had happened to her.
Barnes, a former civil servant, admitted his crimes but was spared jail – on the grounds his age and poor health, as a result of hypertension, amounted to ‘exceptional circumstances’.
Urging the appeal judges to review the original sentence, Mr Garnier said, “There is a need for the victims to feel that the criminal justice system protects them.
“But also, there is a need to deter anyone, no matter how old, from committing such horrendous offences against children.”
Barnes’ lawyers argued the crown court judge was entitled to find that the pensioner was too frail to serve his sentence behind bars.
But Lord Justice Hughes said there was ‘insufficient evidence’ that Barnes would not be able to cope with prison.
The judge added, “This was not a case where there was a powerful public interest for not passing a short custodial sentence. This court must stress that there are cases where there will be exceptional circumstances arising from age and ill health.
“But here, we are afraid to have to say that there weren’t – at least not to the extent of relieving this man altogether of the need to pay his penance for what he did.”