A criminal justice expert believes Terence Kelly got a ‘fair sentence’ for kidnapping four-year-old Cleo Smith and holding her for 18 days, during which time he turned up the radio to drown out her cries for help as she heard her name being broadcast.
Police criticised the 13-year, six-month sentence handed down to Kelly, 37, in Perth‘s District Court on Wednesday as too lenient.
Cleo was kidnapped while she slept with her family at the Blowholes campsite, about 960km north of Perth, on October 16, 2021 and was held captive at Kelly’s nearby Carnarvon home before an exhaustive weeks-long police search ended in her rescue.
University of Newcastle Criminologist Dr Xanthe Mallett admitted Kelly’s sentence, where he will be eligible for parole in 11 years, might not appear adequate.
Kelly admitted in a police interview he had ‘roughed [Cleo] up a few times’ and said he had smacked her when she was being ‘bossy’.
Four-year-old Cleo Smith (pictured) after she was rescued by police from the home of kidnapper Terence Kelly in 2021
‘The community may feel that this is quite a low sentence, the maximum was 20 years, but there were serious mitigating circumstances,’ Dr Mallett told Sunrise on Thursday.
‘The offender has a very complex behavioural and traumatic past and that was certainly taken into account by the judge at sentencing.’
Kelly confessed to being strung out on meth during the crime and has a history of childhood trauma, that Dr Mallett said would’ve weighed on the judge’s decision making.
‘He (Kelly) has also got cognitive dysfunction as well as very serious personality disorders, so it was a complex picture that the judge had to weigh up,’ Dr Mallett said.
‘The methamphetamine was used to manage some of his trauma just played into it and made everything so much worse for him in the time leading up to the abduction.’
Terence Darrell Kelly (pictured centre) was sentenced to 13 and a half years jail on Wednesday for the abduction and holding captive of Cleo
It emerged in court during the time Cleo was held captive, Kelly turned up the radio to drown out her cries for help as she also heard her name being broadcast as police made their desperate search.
‘This must have been very traumatic for her,’ Dr Mallett said.
‘Eighteen days is a really long time in a four-year-old’s life and to hear her name on the radio and not understand why he wouldn’t return her to her mother must have been incredibly traumatic for her.
‘We are very lucky that she was returned physically unharmed but there is a significant amount of trauma that she would have suffered.’
University of Newcastle Criminologist Dr Xanthe Mallett told Channel Seven that although some might think Kelly’s sentence was low she believed it to be fair considering the circumstances
Dr Mallett praised WA police for finding Cleo and their messages of support offered to the four-year-old and her family.
‘I think it certainly speaks to the amount of time and effort and love that they put into this case to find this child,’ she said.
‘It was an amazing result, one that none of us expected.
‘I’m pleased that the formal part is over for the family because they really need time to consolidate and move on from this so that it doesn’t haunt them for the rest of their lives.
‘Cleo is a very young girl has got her whole future ahead of her.’
This echoed the personal message given by WA Commissioner Col Blanch to Cleo on Wednesday.
‘We owe you your privacy, we owe you to grow up and have your dreams come true. So from all of us, it’s time we give you the space to do so,’ he said.
WA police commissioner Col Blanch (pictured) slammed Kelly’s ‘evil’ crimes following sentencing while praising the tireless efforts of police to find Cleo
Commissioner Blanch said finding Cleo was ‘the greatest story in Western Australian policing history’.
He described the crime committed by Kelly as ‘evil’, ‘heinous’ and a ‘parent’s worse nightmare’.
‘As I said before, I’m the Police Commissioner and I respect the rule of law, but as a father, that’s something I could never forgive,’ he said.
Commissioner Blanch questioned the sentence delivered to Kelly.
‘Early on in my career I spoke to a father of a victim of a serious crime. And he said to me, as a dad, a million years isn’t enough and that’s driven by emotion – and as a father I understand that,’ he said.
‘And I would expect that the community would never think that 13-and-a-half years is enough.
‘But Judge (Julie) Wager had to weigh up many things, and there were many mitigating circumstances and I respect the court’s decision.’
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk