Jordan McSweeney: Zara Aleena's murderer has minimum life sentence reduced after winning appeal
Convicted murderer Jordan McSweeney has won his appeal to reduce his life sentence minimum term after he was convicted of the murder of law graduate Zara Aleena.
McSweeney killed Ms Aleena, 35, in June 2022 as she walked from a night out in Ilford, east London. Following a trial in which he admitted to the murder and sexual assault of Ms Aleena, McSweeney was sentenced to a life sentence with a minimum term of 38 years. He did not attend the sentencing hearing in person.
Now the Court of Appeal has reduced his minimum term from 38 years to 33 years following a successful appeal. Three judges - Lady Chief Justice Lady Carr, Mrs Justice McGowan and Mrs Justice Ellenbogen - ruled that the sentencing judge had imposed too high an "uplift" to the initial minimum term imposed.
Lady Chief Justice Lady Carr said; “Having correctly found that Ms Aleena must have been rendered unconscious at an early stage in the attack, the judge had lacked a sufficient evidential basis on which to be sure that there had been additional mental or physical suffering such as to justify an increase in the 30-year starting point."
George Carter-Stephenson KC, barrister for McSweeney, said: “At the outset can I make it clear that it is accepted that the attack and murder in this case was particularly savage and brutal, and nothing I intend to say in this address is in any way meant to detract from that.” He added that the sentencing judge, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb, had factored in "aggravating features" when making her ruling.
Mr Cater-Stephenson also told the court that while the sexual assault had been premeditated, the act of murder had not been. 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.”
This was argued by Oliver Glasgow KC, for the Crown Prosecution Service, who called the claims that McSweeney had not intended to kill Ms Aleena "unsustainable". He added that the attack on Ms Aleena, which left her with 46 different injuries, was "utterly abhorrent".
He 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.”