In 2019 we expanded the unduly lenient sentence scheme to include 14 new offences, including further child sexual offences and coercive or controlling behaviour. We have no immediate plans to extend the scheme further, but we keep it under constant review.
I welcome the new Minister to his place; his is an excellent appointment and I wish him every success. The fact that malicious wounding, actual bodily harm, burglary and even rape, when dealt with in the youth courts, do not come under the unduly lenient sentence scheme is plain wrong. Will he please review that situation, which time and again lets down the victims of those serious crimes?
The unduly lenient sentence scheme is intended for use in serious cases for offenders sentenced in the Crown court. The Attorney General has the power to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal for review if they believe it is unduly lenient. A youth court can sentence a child to up to two years of detention only. Where a child’s offence is likely to attract a sentence of more than two years, the case must be passed to the Crown court for sentencing, where the scheme therefore applies.
Stiffening unduly lenient Crown court sentences is all very well, but there will still be delays in the system if there are backlogs in prosecuting in the courts. Up to 25% of criminal barristers have left the profession over the past five years, so what action are the Government taking to address the exodus of criminal barristers?
In recent years the Government have invested an extra £141 million in criminal legal aid, which should expedite a solution to the situation.