Murderer of Zara Aleena has his sentence reduced
A man who stalked and murdered Zara Aleena, has succeeded in his Court of Appeal challenge to have his minimum tariff reduced.
In a ruling issued on Friday, 3 November, three judges concluded that the sentencing judge had imposed an excessively high “uplift” to Jordan McSweeney’s minimum term and reduced it to 33 years.
McSweeney had been released from prison on parole just nine days before committing the murder on 26 June, 2022. He had confessed to the murder and sexual assault but had declined to attend his sentencing hearing in December, where the original tariff and a mandatory life sentence were handed down, the BBC reports. Last month, during a Court of Appeal hearing, he left the proceedings after approximately 45 minutes.
Aleena’s family expressed their disappointment with the Court of Appeal’s decision, describing it as a “shallow triumph” for McSweeney.
Before stalking and attacking Aleena, 35, who was walking home from a night out in Ilford, McSweeney had attempted to attack five other women that night. He attacked the law graduate on Cranbrook Road for about nine minutes, which resulted in her suffering from 46 separate injuries.
In a statement Aleena’s family said: “Today’s decision, a decision to reduce the minimum sentence for that repugnant man, aligns with an established legal sentencing framework, a framework we comprehend.
“Yet, the message it conveys to women is disheartening, suggesting that a ‘life sentence’ may not truly mean a lifetime behind bars. It is, in all honesty, a shallow triumph for him,” they said.
“Despite his sentencing to a minimum of 33 years, his time in incarceration has been marred by abhorrent conduct, marked by a lack of remorse and a callous attitude toward others.
“The prospect of his release after 33 years remains slim, but, naturally, we hope he remains imprisoned for life.”
According to the BBC, McSweeney’s barrister, George Carter-Stephenson KC, contended that the sentencing judge, Mrs. Justice Cheema-Grubb, had erroneously considered the “aggravating features” in the case, which led to an overly high minimum term being imposed.
He said that although there was a sexual motive to the crime, the act of murder itself was not premeditated.
He said: “The attack was an opportunistic act rather than anything that was planned in advance, though there was clearly a sexual encounter in mind.
“He planned to look for a sexual encounter, with or without consent.”
However Oliver Glasgow KC, for the Crown Prosecution Service, argued that the suggestion McSweeney had not intended to kill Ms Aleena was “unsustainable”.
Glasgow said: “The submission that the intention to murder Ms Aleena was formed ‘on the spur of the moment’ flies in the face of the applicant’s behaviour preceding the violence.
“The sexual assault of Ms Aleena was the culmination of hours of planning and premeditation.”