A paedophile who was facing the rest of his life in prison is to be released after just 18 months – because judges said they had no choice.
Simon Crisp, 36, had hundreds of child abuse images on his computer which he shared with other sex offenders. He twice tried to groom a teenage boy online.
He was given an Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP) at Preston Crown Court earlier this year and was told that a five-year sentence would have been appropriate for the offences he admitted.
However, because he was regarded as 'dangerous' it was decided he should only be released when the Parole Board thought he was safe to be released.
That ruling was overturned at London's Court of Appeal on Wednesday when Crisp's lawyers argued that this 'notional' five-year jail term was too long.
His appeal was allowed as the term was 'excessive' and the open-ended sentence was quashed and replaced with a conventional jail term of three years.
This means he will be automatically set free next year after serving half of the term. Judges said they were anxious about the outcome but had 'no alternative' because of the terms of the law on IPPs, which can only be imposed when the offences would warrant a conventional sentence of at least four years.
Judge Anthony Morris, QC, said: "We consider that the judge's finding of dangerousness was fully justified on the evidence before him.
"But, by reason of this court's decision to reduce the notional determinate term, a sentence of imprisonment for public protection was not available. We have great concern as to the outcome.
"But, as Parliament has laid down that the notional term must be at least four years for an indeterminate sentence to be imposed, we have no alternative but to quash the IPP."