Plans announced to expand Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme
Last week the government announced their proposal to expand the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme confirming that fourteen offences are to be added to the scheme, which examines Crown Court sentences.
The Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme already allows people to ask for a sentence to be reviewed in cases including child sex cases, murder, rape and terrorism.
However, the government has said that perpetrators 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.
The new offences also include taking, distributing and publishing indecent images of children and abusing a position of trust to cause a child or person with a mental disorder to engage in sexual activity.
The decision to expand the scheme is part of wider action by the government to ensure punishment properly reflects severity of crimes.
The Ministry of Justice said the changes followed calls from victims’ advocates to widen the scheme, which allows people to request a review by the attorney general.
The Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme began in 1989 after a number of highly controversial court cases caused public outcry.
The scheme gives anyone, even if they have no connection to the case, the power to ask the Attorney General to consider referring a sentence to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration – where it could then potentially be increased if deemed unduly lenient.
Only one request is needed for the government to decide whether a sentence can be looked at again, but it must be lodged within 28 days of the court hearing where the sentence was handed down.
The government says it hopes the changes will come into effect in the autumn via secondary legislation, which can be brought in without Parliament having to pass a new act.
This announcement is made against the backdrop of the news that nursery paedophile, Vanessa George, has been released from prison in a move that has been described as a “dark day for British justice”.
George was sent to prison indefinitely in 2009 after being convicted of sexually abusing toddlers at the Little Ted’s Nursery in Plymouth where she worked. But earlier this month the Parole Board ruled that she no longer posed a significant risk to the public and was eligible for release.
George has never admitted the full scale of her offending, leaving many parents traumatised as it is unclear whether their children were among her victims. Her refusal to cooperate with the authorities has led for calls for her release to be urgently reviewed.
A key part of our role at Bolt Burdon Kemp is to support survivors of child sexual abuse. Sadly, we see on a daily basis the distress and damage caused by crimes of this nature and welcome any move by the government to ensure that perpetrators are given sentences that reflect the severity of their crimes.
With that in mind, Bolt Burdon Kemp has launched a petition to change the double-jeopardy law. Further information on our campaign can be found at the following link.
How to get a sentence reviewed
Anyone can ask for a sentence to be reviewed – they don’t have to be involved in the case. Only one person needs to ask for a sentence to be reviewed.
Make sure you submit your request as early as possible and within 28 days of the sentencing.
Provide as much information as you can about the case to the Attorney General’s Office, including the name of the perpetrator, the date of sentencing and the court where the case was heard.
The Attorney General’s Office has 28 days to review a sentence and make a decision. If your request is received after 28 days of the sentencing, it cannot be reviewed.
Once the Attorney General’s Office has reviewed the case, they may send it to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal may decide that the sentence (1) should stay the same; (2) is unduly lenient and may increase it; or (3) refuse to hear the case.
Triggering a review doesn’t risk a shorter sentencing being handed down in any circumstances.
Thomas Beale is an associate solicitor in the Abuse team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Thomas free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4823 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Abuse team will contact you. Find out more about the Abuse team.