Zara Aleena's family welcome proposed tougher sentencing changes in King's Speech

Zara Aleena's family welcome proposed tougher sentencing changes in King's Speech

The family of murdered Zara Aleena has welcomed a Government pledge for tougher sentences for the worst criminals.

Ms Aleena, 35, was killed and sexually assaulted by Jordan McSweeney as she walked home from a night out in east London in June 2022.

Last week, McSweeney won a Court of Appeal bid to have the minimum term of his life sentence reduced to a minimum of 33 years.

Responding to the Government’s plan for tougher sentences announced in the King’s Speech, Zara’s aunt, Farah Naz, said it would “send a resounding message to potential offenders and serves as a potent deterrent".

In a statement she said: “Today, we remember her with gratitude for the impact her legacy has had on making these crucial changes happen.

“It is regrettable that such measures weren't in place in Zara's case, where, ironically, the man who murdered her received a reduction in his minimum sentence just days ago.”

Under the changes,  a whole-life order must be handed down in certain cases, with judges able to choose not to impose one only in exceptional circumstances.

It would also give extra powers to force defendants into the dock.

Murderer: Jordan McSweeney (PA Wire)
Murderer: Jordan McSweeney (PA Wire)

McSweeney had refused to appear in the dock for his initial sentencing, where he was told he would have to serve 38 years before being eligible for parole.

McSweeney, from Dagenham, had only recently been released from prison when he carried out the brutal attack on Ms Aleena, a law graduate.

He had 28 convictions for 69 crimes, dating back to 2006, ranging from burglary to assaulting the police and including racially motivated offences.

In a ruling on Friday, three judges at the appeal court in London allowed McSweeney's appeal against the minimum term, finding that the sentencing judge had imposed too high an "uplift" to the minimum term, replacing it with a life sentence with a minimum term of 33 years.

The move was criticised by both Ms Aleena’s relatives and by campaigners.

The Old Bailey previously heard McSweeney stalked Ms Aleena along Cranbrook Road before grabbing her from behind and dragging her into a driveway.

The horrific attack lasted nine minutes and resulted in 46 separate injuries.