Lenient Sentences

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th April 1998.

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Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Attorney General, Law Officers' Department, Attorney General (Law Officers)

In 1996, the Law Officers referred the sentences imposed on 70 offenders to the Court of Appeal for their sentences to be reviewed under the provisions of section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. All those references have been heard, and sentences were increased for 51 offenders. In 1997, the sentences of a further 70 offenders were referred to the Court of Appeal for their sentences to be reviewed. Of those references, sentences have been increased for 43 offenders; six references have yet to be heard.

Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

What procedures are being adopted to take account of the views of the victims of crime? I am sure that the Attorney-General will agree that that is an important component in ensuring that justice is seen to be done.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Attorney General, Law Officers' Department, Attorney General (Law Officers)

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. I can refer sentences that appear to me to be unduly lenient, but I take into account the impact on victims—I regard that as important—and the danger to the public. Those features can result in sentences being increased—indeed, very long terms of imprisonment can be imposed under the Act.

Photo of Mr Brian White Mr Brian White Labour, North East Milton Keynes

Is the Attorney-General aware of the consequences of lenient sentences on the many agencies that are trying to improve estates and make them safe? Lenient sentences can give rise to despair, and even cause more crime, as they lead people to believe that we are not serious about tackling crime. The Government must tackle lenient sentences as a key aspect in creating a safer Britain.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Attorney General, Law Officers' Department, Attorney General (Law Officers)

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that it is of the utmost importance to ensure that life is made as safe as possible for all our people and that, in many estates, that poses an even greater problem for a whole host of reasons. He must know, however, that I cannot refer lenient sentences full stop; I can refer only unduly lenient sentences within the parameters laid down by the Court of Appeal in the decisions that it takes from time to time. I personally consider these matters and, if I do not, my noble and learned Friend the Solicitor-General does.