THE founder of an Andover children’s charity – caged for a string of horrific child sex crimes – has had his sentence slashed by top judges in London.
As previously reported by the Advertiser, Ronald Nicholson Bennett, 73, of Launcelot Close, was jailed for 16 years in October for five crimes against two girls.
The offences took place more than three decades ago and caused “life-changing devastation” to the victims.
But after an appeal on Tuesday, three senior judges in London cut the “excessive ” term to 14 years.
The court heard Bennett had taken advantage of two girls, satisfying his perverted sexual urges with a series of attacks.
However, it was only decades later that the offences came to light and he was prosecuted.
He was convicted at Winchester Crown Court last year of rape, indecency with a child and three indecent assaults.
But his barrister, Andrew Horsell, argued that the 16-year term – with an additional year of extended licence conditions after release – was too tough.
He had gone on to serve the community for over two decades with charity work, he told Lord Justice Simon, Mr Justice Soole and Mr Justice Blake.
Bennett founded the now-disbanded Brave Hearts children’s charity and had refused to go into the witness box to defend himself during his trial.
“There’s no suggestion his work in charity can make amends for what he has done,” said the barrister.
“But it is our submission that this court could use that as mitigation.
“We are dealing with a man who is 73, who is infirm. The sentence is arguably a whole life sentence. Even if he emerges from prison alive, his life is going to be indelibly affected.”
Giving judgment, Mr Justice Soole highlighted the devastating impact of Bennett’s offences.
“The reality is that sexual abuse is a life-changing event, and so it was here,” he said.
“However, when standing back and assessing the totality of the custodial term, we consider the total sentence was too long.
“We conclude that a total sentence of 14 – not 16 – years, plus the licence extension, was appropriate.”
Bennett’s sentence is now 14 years, plus one year of extended licence conditions.
The former security officer set up the Brave Hearts Children’s Charity Association in 1991 to raise money to help youngsters needing special assistance.
In 2007 he was fundraiser of the year at the Pride of Andover awards where he was congratulated by Esther Rantzen.