People convicted of stalking, harassment, child sexual abuse and other sex offences could see their sentences increase, following extensions to the 'unduly lenient' sentence scheme announced today.
The Ministry of Justice has added 14 offences to the scheme, which allows the public to ask the attorney general to consider referring a sentence to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration.
The scheme now covers stalking, harassment, offences involving controlling and coercive behaviour, and additional child sexual abuse offences. Crimes such as murder, rape and terrorism were already covered.
The justice secretary, Robert Buckland QC MP, said: ‘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.’
The solicitor general, Michael Ellis QC MP, added: ‘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.’
Caroline Goodwin QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said: ‘The independent judiciary are doing an outstanding job to ensure that where perpetrators are convicted they receive the correct sentence. The public needs to understand that often the judiciary are left with little room for discretion on sentencing due to increasingly detailed, prescriptive sentencing guidelines that bind their hands in terms of strict maximum and minimum terms for categories of offences.
‘The extension of the undue leniency scheme will ensure that public confidence is maintained. Justice needs to be dispensed for the people not by the people.’
According to the MoJ, 99 criminals had sentences increased following review by the courts in 2018.