The infighting begins: Blairs allies

It begins.

Labout ministers have begun a messy campaign of briefings and counter-briefings in an attempt to position themselves prior to the soon expected departure of Tony Blair from No10. Not only is it infighting between the two obvious camps (Blairites Vs Brownites), but now the depth of depravity and backstabbing has caused a rift between two of the PM's most loyal lieutenants.

The attorney general is understood to be unhappy with John Reid's attack on the sentencing of a man who abducted and sexually assaulted a girl of three.

Lord Goldsmith is examining the case of Craig Sweeney, who received a life jail term but who could be out in five years because of guidelines on guilty pleas.

The home secretary says this is lenient and the case should be reconsidered.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson understands Lord Goldsmith feels the intervention is "not terribly helpful".

'Extremely annoyed'

The attorney general's spokesman said: "The attorney has called for the file in Craig Sweeney's case in order to consider whether to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient.

"I think it's unwise for the home secretary to poke his nose into legal affairs"
Sir Oliver Popplewell, Ex-High Court judge

Abuse case 'beggars belief'

"The attorney will make a decision purely on the merits of the case and not in response to political or public pressure. Calling for the file in no way implies that there will be a reference by the attorney. Still less does it imply any criticism of the sentencing judge."

However, a Home Office spokesman had earlier said Mr Reid "is concerned that the tariff Craig Sweeney has been given does not reflect the seriousness of this crime and is writing to the attorney general to ask him to consider referring the sentence to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient".

The Attorney General has issued a stern warning about political interference in the courts, after the Home Secretary criticised the "unduly lenient" sentence given to a convicted paedophile.

Craig Sweeney, 24, of Caerleon Road, Newport, South Wales, kidnapped a three-year-old girl from her home in Cardiff, then took her back to his accommodation in Newport and sexually assaulted her. He was caught after overturning his car in Wiltshire, with the child inside.

The Recorder of Cardiff, Judge John Griffith Williams QC, jailed Sweeney for life yesterday and told him he would not be considered for parole for at least five years and 108 days.

But the girl's family immediately criticised the sentence - and were supported by the Home Secretary, John Reid, who said he would be contacting Attorney General Lord Goldsmith with a view to having it referred to the Court of Appeal.

However, Lord Goldsmith's office later issued a statement stressing that any decision would be made "purely on the merits of the case and not in response to political or public pressure".

A spokesman for the Attorney General said: "He will only refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal if he believes that it falls significantly below what any judge could reasonably have passed."
Well, infighting aside, Goldsmith is the cnut here. Honestly now!!!!

Edited to add that upon reflection, the above comment has no value at all.

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