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Man who had sex with underage girl remains out of jail

Solicitor General argued Ashley Cane's sentence was too lenient

John Garvey

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John Garvey

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A MAN who had sex with a child has avoided jail for a second time, after an appeal against his original sentence was dismissed.

Ashley Thomas Cane was spared an immediate prison sentence at an initial sentencing hearing in February.

Cane, formerly of Lambourn but who now lives in Bannister Place, Brimpton, had promised a vulnerable 14-year-old marriage and children, but mocked her behind her back and branded her a “slut” to his friends, jurors were told during the trial in January.

The former Newbury town centre barman denied two counts of sexual activity with a child but was convicted on both counts by the jury.

At the hearing at Reading Crown Court in February, Judge Ian Grainger sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years.

Cane was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid community work and to sign the Sex Offenders Register.

Judge Grainger said he was taking the unusual step of suspending the sentence because he did not want to ruin Cane’s life.

But on Thursday, April 27, Solicitor General Robert Buckland QC argued at London’s Court of Appeal that that was too lenient, and that Cane should have been locked up.

Lady Justice Sharp, Mr Justice Blake and Judge Paul Farrer QC heard Cane had “consensual” sex with the “troubled”, underaged girl.

But because of her age, she could not, in law, agree to it, the appeal court heard.

Mark Weekes, for the Solicitor General, argued that Cane’s jail term was “unduly lenient” and should not have been suspended.

He pointed to the “significant” disparity in age between Cane and the girl.

But Clare Evans, for Cane, said Judge Grainger was in the “perfect position to judge the criminality of Cane’s behaviour”.

The age difference was “not that great” – both were teenagers and both were “vulnerable”, she argued.

Cane, whose previous convictions include one for stabbing a man in the stomach with a knife, had already completed a fifth of his unpaid work hours and was “a young man with a way to go but on the right path”, she insisted.

Lady Justice Sharp said Cane was himself immature and, by the time he was sentenced, had broken his addiction to drugs.

“This was serious criminal offending which plainly required a punishment,” she said – but it was “not a straightforward case”.

She added: “The judge adopted an extremely careful approach and explained in very thorough sentencing remarks why he departed from the guidelines.

“In our view the judge was entitled to adopt the course that he did in this case and we decline to interfere.”

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