Public given power to question ‘lenient’ prison sentences

More victims will soon be able to ask for an offender’s sentence to be increased if they think the punishment is too lenient

Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP

LEGISLATION LAID earlier this week (October 29) will add a further 14 offences to the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme – meaning criminals convicted of stalking, harassment, child sexual abuse and other sex offences could see their sentences increased.

The scheme gives victims or members of the public the power to ask the Attorney General to consider whether a sentence could be reconsidered by the Court of Appeal, where it could it then be increased.

Crimes such as murder, robbery, and a range of terror offences are already covered, and now the government is introducing legislation to extend the scheme further to protect the public and make sure victims see justice done.

The extension follows wider action to restore faith in the criminal justice system – with the recruitment of 20,000 police officers, investing £2.75 billion in prisons, £85 million for the Crown Prosecution Service and reviewing sentencing to ensure violent and sexual offenders spend longer behind bars.

Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, said: We know that victims and the public sometimes feel sentences don’t match the crime and we are determined to give them a greater voice in the system.

“Sentencing will always be decided by our independent judiciary, but by extending the scheme we are sending a clear signal that this Government will do everything in its power to build faith in the justice system and protect the public.

The Solicitor General, Rt Hon Michael Ellis QC MP, said: “This government is taking greater steps to tackle violent crime in our communities. The latest extension to the Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme means that perpetrators of the most heinous crimes such as sex offences against children and vulnerable adults and controlling and coercive behaviour could have their sentences increased, bringing some comfort to victims and their families.

“As a result of the extension becoming law, the Attorney General and I can look at even more sentences than before and we will do everything we can to challenge those that we regard to be clearly wrong.”

A statutory instrument laid in Parliament today will come into force 21 days from now. Sentences imposed for these additional offences from then on will be in scope of the scheme, meaning anyone will be able to query these sentences with the Attorney General.

The move will bring offences including controlling and coercive behaviour within scope as well as further child sexual abuse offences, such as those involving the taking, distributing and publishing of indecent images of children and abusing a position of trust with a child.

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