England

Increased sentence for man jailed over 1987 Alvechurch rape

Steven Hearl Image copyright West Mercia Police
Image caption Steven Hearl's sentence was increased by the Court of Appeal after judges said his sentence was too lenient

A rapist who was jailed when DNA evidence linked him to an attack on a teenage girl nearly 30 years ago has had his sentence increased after an appeal by the solicitor general.

Steven Hearl, 63, was jailed for six years and four months after admitting raping a schoolgirl in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, in 1987.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland appealed, saying it was too lenient.

Hearl's sentence was increased by 20 months by three Court of Appeal judges.

Hearl, of Hunters Walk, Birmingham, had previously admitted four offences including rape and sexual assault.

Suffering of victim

He was caught when officers from Warwickshire and West Mercia Police's major crime review team examined evidence in unsolved sexual assaults and rapes to trace offenders still at large.

Worcester Crown Court heard Hearl forced the girl into a cornfield before using her clothing to bind and blindfold her while he carried out the attack.

The Court of Appeal was told the effect of the attack on the victim was especially severe and led to "self-imposed exile".

She was forced to move away from the area because people did not believe her account of the attack and she suffered recurring nightmares and anxiety.

The court was also told the victim had been relieved when Hearl was finally identified as her attacker and her account had been vindicated.

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