Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 3rd October 2019.

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Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Conservative, Mid Dorset and North Poole

What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the unduly lenient sentence scheme.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the unduly lenient sentence scheme.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

The unduly lenient sentence scheme is an important avenue for victims, family members and the general public to ensure that justice is delivered in the most serious cases. That is why the Government have announced an extension to the scheme to cover further child sexual abuse offences such as those that involve the taking, distributing and publishing of indecent images of children. In 2018, the Law Officers referred one fifth of all eligible cases that were considered by my office to the Court of Appeal and, of those, 73% were found to be unduly lenient.

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Conservative, Mid Dorset and North Poole

I am grateful to the Solicitor General for his answer. Can he set out how the new announcement on unduly lenient sentences will help victims of stalking?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

The unduly lenient sentences scheme is extremely effective. It has now been in existence for some 30 years. It applies to myriad offences, but we wanted to extend the scheme to include 14 offences of a sexual nature, including child abuse and indecent images. The scheme now includes those and will do so in future. A range of other offences are available for consideration under the unduly lenient scheme that will serve to ameliorate the situation as far as the previous gaps were concerned.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

I thank the Solicitor General for his answer thus far. What action is he taking to alert the victims of crimes, as well as the wider public, on the steps they should take to bring the scheme into operation, so that the public will understand that unduly lenient sentences should be a thing of the past?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

We are very fortunate in this country to have a judiciary who get it right almost 100% of the time. Some 80,000 sentences were passed last year, and of those only about 100 had to be referred to the Court of Appeal and were found to have been unduly lenient. So they are few and far between, but my hon. Friend is right that victims should be aware of the available options if a sentence has been unduly lenient. The Crown Prosecution Service is doing everything it can to make sure that victims are so informed.