Unduly Lenient Sentence Scheme

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 4th February 2021.

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Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

What recent assessment she 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 a vital safeguard in our criminal justice system. It permits me to intervene personally in a case where I consider that a sentencing judge has fallen into a gross error and imposed a sentence that is outside the reasonable range. Sentencing judges do get it right the vast majority of the time, but in those rare cases where they get it wrong, this is a very good scheme that ensures that justice is served.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

I thank the Minister for his reply, but it is my constituents’ view and, I think, the view of constituents up and down the country that too many sentences are too lenient. Do the Law Officers and the Government have any plans to ensure that sentences are at a level that ensures public confidence in the judicial process?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

I know that my hon. Friend speaks for his constituents and always has done. It is right to say, though, that our judiciary is admired around the world for its impartiality, intelligence, independence and intellectual rigour. It is of essential importance to the rule of law. I can, therefore, reassure my hon. Friend, and reiterate to him that it is rare for judges to get sentencing wrong. It is, of course, important that sentences reflect the seriousness of offending, and I have gone to court myself on several occasions to seek referral of sentences where we have felt they have been too low. However, generally speaking, he will find that sentences meet the gravamen of the crimes.