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Unduly lenient sentence scheme extended

17 September 2019

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More victims will be able to challenge prison sentences following an extension of the unduly lenient sentence scheme, announced by the Ministry of Justice today.

Criminals convicted of stalking, harassment, child sexual abuse and other sex offences could see their sentences increased if victims, or the public, think their punishment is too lenient. 

In total 14 new offences have been added to the scheme as part of wider action by the government to ensure punishment properly reflects severity of crimes. The extension delivers on a commitment in the cross-government Victims’ Strategy, published last year.

The scheme gives anyone the power to ask the attorney general to consider referring a sentence to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration – where it could then be potentially increased if deemed unduly lenient.

In July, such an intervention increased the sentence of a mother who allowed her partner to rape her daughter from three to five years behind bars.

Crimes such as murder, robbery, and a range of terror offences are already covered, however offences such as controlling and coercive behaviour will also now be included, as will further child sexual abuse offences, such as taking, distributing and publishing of indecent images of children and abusing a position of trust with a child.

Justice secretary Robert Buckland QC (pictured) said: “We are determined that those found guilty of heinous crimes such as child sex offences receive the sentences their actions warrant. Sentences are decided by our independent judiciary based on the facts before them, but it is absolutely right that victims have a voice in the system when punishments don’t appear to fit the crime.

“We are today sending a clear message that this government will use every tool at its disposal to make sure justice is done and the public is kept safe. Whilst in the vast majority of cases sentences are deemed appropriate, since its introduction 30 years ago the scheme has helped hundreds of victims and their families – with 99 criminals seeing their sentences increased following review by the courts in 2018 alone.

Solicitor general Michael Ellis QC said: “The unduly lenient sentence scheme can bring comfort to victims and their families across the country. The latest extension means that the attorney general and I can look at even more sentences which look like they don’t fit the crime. Anyone can apply to the scheme and although there is a high bar to any appeal we will do everything we can to challenge a sentence that we regard to be clearly wrong."

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