Zara Aleena’s family demands a change in the law after her murderer’s sentence was cut

Zara Aleena’s family has demanded a change in the law after her murderer won a bid to reduce the minimum term of his life sentence.

Jordan McSweeney killed Ms Aleena, a 35-year-old law graduate, as she walked home from a night out in Ilford, east London, on 26 June 2022.

On Friday McSweeney won a Court of Appeal challenge to have his minimum tariff of 38 years reduced to 33 years. In the ruling on Friday, which McSweeney attended via videolink from prison, three appeal judges found the original sentence was “manifestly excessive”.

Ms Aleena’s aunt, Farah Naz, told BBC Breakfast on Saturday that her family were “extremely disappointed” by the ruling saying it sends out a “disheartening” message to women that their “suffering will not be accounted for”.

She also said she was beginning to wonder if her family “can trust the judicial system”, as the law “does not really take into account the victim’s journey”.

Family and friends take part in a silent vigil to mark the one year anniversary of the death of Zara Aleena at Valentines Park in Ilford. Law graduate Ms Aleena, 35, was sexually assaulted and killed by Jordan McSweeney as she walked home in London on June 26 last year. Picture date: Sunday June 25, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story MEMORIAL Aleena. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
In June, family and friends took part in a silent vigil in Ilford to mark the one-year anniversary of Ms Aleena’s murder (Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

“At no point did any of our statements have an impact on the sentencing or on the appeal,” Ms Naz added.

McSweeney admitted murder and sexual assault but refused to attend his sentencing hearing last December.

Ms Naz told the programme: “This is a man who didn’t show for his sentencing, who didn’t show for previous legal proceedings.

“He spat in the face of the law, gets the law to stand up for him and he’s able to exercise his right – surely somebody who has such a disdain for law should not be given that right of appeal.

“We need to change this law. I am extremely angry.”

McSweeney’s attack on Ms Aleena on Cranbrook Road in Ilford lasted nine minutes and she suffered 46 injuries.

Undated handout file photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of sexual predator Jordan McSweeney, 29, who murdered Zara Aleena in Ilford, east London, in June 2022. McSweeney has won a Court of Appeal bid to reduce the minimum term of his life sentence. Issue date: Friday November 3, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story COURTS Ilford. Photo credit should read: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
On Friday Jordan McSweeney won a Court of Appeal bid to reduce the minimum term of his life sentence (Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire)

At a hearing at the Court of Appeal in London last month, McSweeney made a bid to reduce the minimum term of his sentence, appearing for the start of proceedings via videolink from Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire.

During the hearing, his barrister said it was accepted there was a sexual motive to the crime, but argued the murder itself was not premeditated, describing it as an “opportunistic act”.

“He planned to look for a sexual encounter, with or without consent,” George Carter-Stephenson KC added.

However, Oliver Glasgow KC, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said at the hearing the suggestion McSweeney had not intended to kill Ms Aleena was “unsustainable” and that he had spent two hours stalking several women before turning his attention to the trainee solicitor.

Ms Naz said: “We’re told he was looking for a sexual encounter, that’s ludicrous.

“He was looking for an opportunity for his sadistic expression and it is that which they’ve now excluded.”

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said: “Jordan McSweeney committed a despicable crime for which the only punishment should be life behind bars.

“This is exactly why we’re pushing ahead with important reforms to keep offenders like him locked up for good. A whole life order should be handed down to murderers with sexual conduct, unless there are truly exceptional circumstances.

“This will mean for the most depraved killers life means life with no prospect of release.”

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