Man Sentenced to 13+ Years Imprisonment for Child Abduction in WA
The man who abducted 4-year-old Cleo Smith in 2021 has been sentenced in the WA District Court.
Terence Kelly was sentenced to 13 years and six months imprisonment after pleading guilty to abducting Cleo Smith. He must serve at least 11 and a half years of the sentence before he is eligible for release on parole.
Last year, just two months after he was charged, Terence Kelly pleaded guilty to one count of stealing a child, which is a criminal offence under Section 343 of The Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 and punishable by a jail term of 20 years.
Sentencing discount for early guilty plea
However, his early guilty plea afforded Terence Kelly some leniency on his sentence.
Under Western Australian law, sentencing judges can reduce a sentence by up to 25% if a person pleads guilty early in the justice process and the court case can proceed smoothly. The sentencing ‘discount’ as it is sometimes called, must be proportionate to the nature and circumstances of the offence.
Sentencing discounts for early guilty pleas are aimed at providing ‘swifter and more certain justice, reducing court delays, as well as reducing the impact that long, drawn out trials can have on victims.
Lives permanently impacted
While WA District Court described Terence Kelly's actions as being "at the highest level of seriousness" because Cleo’s life, and the lives of her family members had been "permanently impacted", the court also noted that Terence Kelly had been exposed to severe and complex trauma as a child and had suffered neurological impairment.
The court heard Kelly had created what the chief judge described as an "idealised fantasy world" which protected him from the "depressing" real world.
His fantasy world included Bratz dolls and a number of imaginary 'children' he had created social media pages for.
Traumatic effects of kidnapping on the victim
While Terence Kelly may have dreamed of having a real little girl, like ‘Cleo’, as someone to join the fantasy family he had created – someone to play with, he communicated that he did not intend to keep her forever, and felt guilty every day he held her captive.
Terence Kelly told police officers that Cleo was "bossy" when asking for chocolates, and although he admitted to "roughing her up" and had smacked her, he did not want to hurt her badly.
During the time he held Cleo captive, Terrence Kelly continued his life as usual, and when he left the house, he locked Cleo in a room alone. When the Police found her she was alone playing on a mattress with toys.
Despite some criticism over the ‘leniency’ of the sentence, with Western Australia’s police chief, saying ”I would expect the community would never think that 13-and-a-half years is enough,”
justice has now been served, and while it will afford the family some closure to see Cleo’s kidnapper serving a lengthy sentence, and the opportunity to begin to move forward with their lives, the lifelong impact of the incident on young Cleo is yet to unfold.
As the sentencing judge noted, "Being separated without any explanation is distressing for a four-year-old child…But 18 days without contact or explanation, and with hours totally on her own and no access to the outside world would have been very traumatic.”
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