Belfast Telegraph

PPS considers appealing 'unduly lenient' jail terms for house of horrors couple

By Allan Preston

The Public Prosecution Service is considering appealing the jail sentences of the couple convicted of sexually abusing a mentally disabled woman they held prisoner for eight years.

Keith Baker (61) was jailed for 15 years for keeping the victim as a sex slave in a room with no light bulb, carpets or curtains at his filthy house in Craigavon, Co Armagh.

His wife Caroline (54) was imprisoned for three, but is to be released after 18 months on licence.

The PPS described the sentences as "unduly lenient".

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors, such as intent and excessive violence.

But a PPS spokesman said it "is currently considering if there is a basis to refer the sentences handed down in this case to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they may be unduly lenient".

He added: "An unduly lenient sentence is one that falls outside the range of sentence that a judge, taking into consideration all relevant factors and having regard to sentencing guidance, could reasonably consider appropriate."

Depraved Baker filmed many of his sexual attacks for his own gratification and held sway over his wife and another partner through his willingness to resort to violence and total immorality, a judge said at Craigavon Crown Court on Tuesday.

The door of the room in which the victim was imprisoned had no handle on the inside and the toilet was overflowing with human excrement.

The victim was so badly emaciated she had only one tooth left once she was rescued by police in 2012 after Baker's second partner raised the alarm.

Keith and Caroline Baker were filmed sexually assaulting their victim.

The woman's learning difficulties were so severe, her IQ placed her in the lowest 0.3% of the population.

She did not appear on the electoral register, had no GP or dentist, and never claimed benefits.

Neighbours did not even know the woman, completely isolated from the rest of society, was there. Green Party MLA for south Belfast Clare Bailey, who previously worked for sexual abuse counselling service Nexus, welcomed the comments from the PPS.

"I know the judge had to refer to sentencing guidelines," she said.

"But I believe this case was much more - this was abduction, trafficking, imprisonment, slavery, torture and abuse all rolled into one.

"I don't understand how 15 years and three years are sufficient.

"I agree with the PPS that it does seem unduly lenient and I'm also glad to see they're looking into the possibility of an appeal." She also commended the PPS for setting up a team to look at serious crimes and track how crimes like rape and murder progress through the judicial system.

"I hope if they're going to start looking at this, it raises the potential for them to look at the majority of rape cases that go unconvicted in Northern Ireland and others acknowledged as unduly lenient as well," she said.

Ms Bailey warned it should not be assumed this was a unique case and said the victim had been let down by multiple agencies.

"It is horrific, abhorrent and so brutal it's unimaginable," she said.

"Sexual abuse and trafficking is happening all over, so we really need to wake up and understand the depth of this problem in our society.

"This was a housing executive house in Craigavon, this could be your neighbours. There's a huge amount of education that needs to be done.

"This was a married woman from England. She was abducted and the police did not deal with that properly either. She was then trafficked into Northern Ireland and then locked up in a room for eight years in a housing estate," she said.

"This goes way beyond neighbours not knowing. Every statutory body process has failed this victim. The blame does not lie with neighbours because this was a clever man who hid what he was doing."

Mr Baker grew up in Guernsey before spending most of his life in Kent. He said he met his wife while working for the Salvation Army.

A spokeswoman for the charity commented: "Our records do not reflect the Bakers in employment within our organisation, which may suggest that they met through a voluntary informal association. We abhor their crimes."

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